Lean Bento: Introducing “Chicken” to Raffles Place

Raffles Place has a new health eatery and I raced to fill my stomach with it! Founded by two extremely fit people, Lean Bento is located on the second floor of the Arcade (opposite the money charger, Loo & Ng) and boasts guilt-free bento meals at amazingly low calories. No more than 460 kCal per bento set. Sounds like a winner of all the healthy eateries RP has got going for her. But is victory clear?

The eatery is upfront about all the kcal, protein and carbohydrates contained within a set. It is also extremely proud of its hashtags (#HIGHPROTEIN #LOWCARB #LOWFAT #LOWCALORIE #EATCLEAN #EATLEAN #GLUTENFREE #PEANUTFREE). Quite frankly the first two hashtags alone caused me to sail past the bakeries in the Arcade with ease, and head straight to the cafe to nourish my body. Who needs low nutritional carbohydrates when a 500 kCal lunch awaits me? This afternoon I got myself a High Protein Honey Mustard Chicken Bento for $11.90. However my 447 kCal lunch eft me baffled. Because I swear I did not eat any chicken.

First up, the tiny but spacious cafe boasted a sleek interior. The clean feel of this place and friendly service staff made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Those display cabinets were actually heated. Yup, those high-protein muffins on the top shelf were served warm!  

But I am going to come right out and say I have very mixed feelings about this place. Within my seemingly simple bento set, I had so many likes and dislikes. The branding, labels and nutritional information are amazing, for sure! Who does not like transparency especially when nutrition is involved?!

My lunch boasts more protein than carbohydrates –> fabulous! Less than 600kCal for lunch –> YES! I await those abs or the day I look remotely similar to the fit owners.

Inside my bento set, there were many different components –> super fun! For an ADHD-eater like me, this was great. I was kept entertained until the very end.

But that’s when my mixed feelings came in. Some of the side dishes were executed to perfection. Check out the runny yolk of the semi-boiled egg. Gorgeous, isn’t it?! The green Japanese seaweed pickle, delicious! Those yellow cubes surrounding my main are eggs! A la Japanese Tamago-style. Them and the cubed carrots were great!

Now moving on to the dislike bit. Naturally at just 447 kCal, gravy or any other delicious seasoning will be lacking. The set felt very clean. Neat brocolli and cauliflower will take some getting used to. But the gloopy sticky brown rice and mushrooms, what’s up with that? The rice did not sit well on my tongue. But the biggest problem was the “chicken”, which by the way are the three coin patties studded with mustard seeds.

Here is a close up intersection of the “chicken”. No, it ain’t chicken breast or thigh as can be found elsewhere in Raffles Place. It was three patties that did not taste anything like chicken. They tasted… processed and… fake. In fact, I am still having difficulty digesting it. Two hours after lunch, I am still burping out the smell of the patty. Sorry, TMI.

I want to like Lean Bento. With the transparent nutritional information, eating healthily in Raffles Place never seemed easier. But when the menu says chicken, I expected a piece of chicken breast. I don’t understand why a “chicken” patty was used in place of a real chicken part that can be so easily found?!

Having said that, my friends thoroughly enjoyed their Salmon bento. I think I will stick to that the next time. And those forever-warm high-protein muffin… Desserts at unbelievably low calories, I will be back!


Cheese Dung Galbi (Pork Ribs), Hongdae, Seoul: Because Not in SG, Yet

This blog strives to post food that is out-of-this-world, spectacular and worth remembering forever. Afterall you can never delete anyting on the internet. So blogging about amazing food lets me look back anytime and smile at those delicious days. However in this post, I am so embarrassed to write that this dish is not out of this world, not exactly spectacular (it didn’t even come close), and quite frankly, I have no desire to remember the taste forever. But I hunted down this dish because out of the many many Korean exports, it has not arrived on our sunny Singapore shores. Yet. These days, one has to find unusual ways of being a pioneer…

Cheese Dung Galbi (Grilled Baby Back Ribs with Cheese), 치즈등갈비, is just one of the many takes on American comfort food by the Koreans. No visitor to Seoul will deny the strong influence America has on the modern Korean “cuisine”. Just look at the chips/ crisps and ice-cream in the 7/11, and street food such as fried potatoes and sausages everywhere. 

In this particular dish, the Koreans took a hot plate, topped it with cheap easily-meltable cheese, grilled saucy baby back ribs, and served it all on a portable gas stove. To Korean-fy it further, some good old Korean rice cakes never hurt. Ta-dah! A new dish is born. You have got to applaud their ingenuity.

How does one eat it? Wait for the cheese to melt. Then using the plastic glove provided, hold up a rib and dunk it in to the melted cheese, lift up and twist more cheese around it. That’s it. This dish is to be consumed purely for comfort purposes. They didn’t even bother glamourizing it.

This dish is not hard to find. In Hongdae, it was everywhere! Short of time, we popped into the first place seen to offer this dish. Sat down, pointed to the picture, held up two fingers signifying two portions then pointed to level two spiciness. Shortly thereafter this hot plate arrived.

Having said that, this dish was not bad. The meat around the rib was tender albeit could have been meatier. And that sauce, at level two spiciness, was lip-numbingly spicy. If you love your heat, SHIOK! My friend was perspiring from the heat, I was revelling in the spiciness.

Very soon the cheese will go from liquid to crusty and that’s when the real fun begins. Scrap off the brown bits for some crispy cheese chips – it’s fun!

If you are heading to Seoul soon and desperately need a place to eat, do pop in to one of these cheese-ribs joint for an experience. >_<

Gontran Cherrier Artisan Boulanger, Samseong-dong, Seoul: Sublime Pastries

 

The best meal on my trip to Seoul last weekend was a lunch at Gontran Cherrier’s bakery. Some of us Singaporeans might find his name familiar. That’s because Gontran is the man behind Tiong Bahru Bakery. Unlike Singapore, Japan and Seoul are so fortunate to be the only countries outside Paris to house his namesake bakery.

I have never been particularly excited about TBB in Singapore. Overpriced tarts and sub-par quality pastries. But after reading many food blogs and seeing my friends on Instagram harp on about his namesake bakery in Tokyo, and especially how much better than TBB it was, I knew his bakery in Seoul must be sought out. This turned out to be a wise decision for every pastry we had turned out to be immensely satisfying and of high quality. It was my most unforgettable meal of the trip. And one that I proudly harp on to others whenever asked about my trip.

We got real lucky on many fronts with this bakery on Sunday. My best friend wanted to visit Coex Mall, the biggest underground mall in Asia. Desperate for something different from Myeong-dong and Hongdae, we hightailed to the other side of the river near Gangnam. It was a 13-stop subway ride away for “fresh air”.

Immediately upon exiting the station to COEX, I saw the “Parnas Mall” sign and jumped. Checked my food list and saw this unusual sounding mall contained one of the two Gontran Cherriers in Seoul. We raced to find this bakery! Luckily it was located on the same level as the train station. Parnas Mall happens to be the smallest of the three malls that lies in between retail giant Coex and the Hyundai Department Store. The mall is the underground arcade of the Grand Intercontinental Hotel Seoul. 

Upon entering the bakery, we behaved like kids in a candy store and gushed over every pastry in sight. Despite our big breakfast, we were keen to try as many as possible. To our immense delight, even though some of the shelves were empty, on the other side of the bakery, fresh-out-of-the-oven bakes were being cooled on their baking trays and trolleys. Including their famed croissants. We helped ourselves to those.

In the end, between two of us, we narrowed it down to five choices. Croissant, Croque Monsieur, French Apple Turnover, Savoury tart topped with cheese and vegetables, and a Paris-Brest.

The warm Croissant was outstanding. It was everything we hoped for in the french classic. Delicate, flaky and buttery, our hearts melted on first bite. The Croque Monsieur may have been too cold for our liking but the two pieces of bread were undeniably fluffy with a crusty side. Superb.  

The French Apple Turnover was such a surprise. The delicate flaky pastry did not let down and expectedly superb but it was the chunky pieces of soft apples within that made us smile.

The Paris-Brest was not only a looker; when a guy sat down next to us and saw ours, he went back to the counter to get one for himself too. But the thick luscious rich hazelnut cream stole the show.

It was a wonderful meal at Gontran Cherrier. I am still craving for that croissant. If you love your french pastries as much as me, promise me you will seek out his bakery in Paris, Japan or Seoul. You will not be disappointed. After the jump, check out more pictures of their offerings taken in the bakery.

Gontran Cherrier Artisan Boulanger: 1F Vision Tower, 25, Seoraero, Seocho-gu, Seoul; (02) 599-0225; F-2-A, B1 Parnas Mall, 521 Teheranno, Samseong-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul; (02) 3453-0225; gontrancherrier.kr

Directions to Parnas Mall:

[Subway]
Samseong Station (Seoul Subway Line 2) , Exit 5 or 6.

[Bus]
– Get off at Korea Trade Center Samsung Station
Bus routes:
Main road bus 333, N13, N61, 146, 740, 341, 360
Non-main road bus 3411, 4434
Express bus 9414, 1100, 2000-1, 1700, 2000, 7007, 8001
Other bus 41
Town bus Gangnam 07, Gangnam 08

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Miss YYC Is Back From Seoul, Y’all!

Hi everyone!!! This place has been a bit quiet lately because I was in Seoul this past weekend! A short three and half days firm trip in the HUGE city. I know, my firm is extremely generous. Our time there may have been short but man, did we really live it up! I slept on average three to four hours each night. The Koreans are hardcore party-goers with a stamina to rival only the Indonesians. The Koreans definitely, hands down, put us Singaporeans to shame when it comes to consumerism. As it was mostly a free and easy trip, my friends roamed around the sprawling city taking in as much as we could with a vengeance. We arrived back in Singapore fatter, broker and sicker than ever before. I left my voice in the 18-million population city. There were some many memorable eats. I will post them up in the course of the remaining week. But for now, I shall leave you with one advice: DON’T GO TO GWANGJANG MARKET. It is a tourist trap. However, not due to the exorbitant prices (it was surprisingly not), but rather, for the low-quality food abound. 

Katanashi Japanese Tapas Bar: Fun and Delicious!

Japanese Izakaya, Katanashi, on Boat Quay serves up delicious affordable Bento rice bowls on weekdays lunch. I have blogged about it before. Every visit, my friends and I naturally have to queue. At night, however, it serves up Japanese Tapas. Last Friday, I finally got the opportunity to check it out. A friend from Hong Kong was in town and I wanted to bring her somewhere totally unique. Katanashi fit the bill. Japanese Tapas is not common in Singapore (and I pray in Hong Kong too) and Katanashi has these little charming details such as a hand-written and drawn menu that I hoped will delight my girl friend. Plus their earnestness to serve up simple delicious little Japanese treats is simply heart-warming.

Katanashi’s menu may be small but boosts many signature dishes. At the same time, they have a separate special menu serving up specially-crafted-for-the-day dishes. Check out their Facebook page. On our visit, my friends safely left the ordering to me. I came to the restaurant fully prepared. Days of stalking Instagram (#katanashi) led me to order a wide variety of dishes. Each were as yummy as the next! We were more than satisfied with our dinner at Katanashi.

Katanashi is well-known for its cute illustrations. Their menus and wet tissue packets are hand drawn. It is hard not to smile at the cute drawings. But their personalized reservation cards definitely takes the cake!  

 

First to arrive on our table was the extremely popular Raw Tuna with a Breaded Crumb on a bed of tar tar sauce. Almost every table had this plate and for good reasons. The pink smooth texture of the tuna and freshness contrasting beautifully with the sourish sauce had us wanting more.

The Japanese ‘Okonomiyaki’-style Omelette may sound boring but it was filled with lovely big pieces of pork, grated yam, dried shrimp topped with bonito flakes and a thick sweet brown sauce. The game-changer was the slightly underdone middle that was just gooey – delightful! In short, a perfectly executed omelette.

Katanashi Fried Chicken or KFC is another popular dish. Deep-fried to perfection with unmistakable juiciness when we first bit into it. The thick crispy milky-crust was a palate pleaser!

This Hapen Cheese is supposed to be one of Katanashi’s best dishes too. Deep-fried Fish Cake filled with cheese, I was not convinced of its popularity.

That’s because my quarter did not contain any cheese… It was filled with air. BUT BUT BUT Katanashi’s other deep-fried and filled dishes did not disappoint and deserves as much credit.

Why this Curry Menchu Katsu does not get as much recognition beats me. Maybe because the description “minced pork meat cutlet and onion, cabbage with curry powder and cheese” does not sound appetizing. But I assure you this dish is delicious. The minced pork cutlet was crisp on the outside but perfectly juicy and tender within. Plus with the generous cheese oozing out when placed on our table, we were happy campers!  

Another must-order is this Potato Croquette filled with a thick wedge of camembert cheese. That’s it! From here on now, I am only going to eat Potato Croquette if it contains a satisfying brick of camembert cheese. I ain’t settling for anything less amazing.

From their specials menu, this Spring Rolls filled with a Korean Rice Cake each topped with Mentaiko was an interesting dish. Usually not a fan of the textureless rice cake, I liked the contrast of the crispy springroll skin. 

Our only main course for the evening was this disappointing Mentaiko Kimchi Udon. The anaemic-looking dish with the diluted kimchi sauce did not look or tasted appetizing. Honestly, I thought a wasteful stomach-filler. Should have gone for those Volcano rice bowls that every other table seemed to be savouring. Being different didn’t help me here.

 

Katanashi serves up another type of Fried Chicken: Katanashi Style fried Tabasaki!!! (Pardon the exclamation marks but this was such on the menu) Deep fried chicken wing dipped in special sauce, I ordered this hoping it will be like the Korean style fried chicken but no. It was dry and where’s the sauce?! Leave it to the Koreans to master saucy fried chicken.

Last but not least, from the special menu, this Fried Rice Ball filled with Unagi in a Dashi Broth. How unusual is this dish?! Sure, it was just one ball and difficult to split among four but it was a fine dish. The broth was light and fragrant, the unagi cubes tender.

 

Katanashi was so much fun. Every dish was surprising with its exciting contrast of textures and flavours. Sure, not every combination was a success but those that were, were first-bite magic. Plus they serve a great selection of Japanese beer. I foresee returning with different group of friends after a long week at work.

Keng Eng Kee Seafood: Tze Char Heaven

My wonderful Mother turned 60 and she requested Tze Char for her birthday meal. Her favourite, my family was only too happy to oblige to her request and break away from our usual (snoozefest) Japanese for our Sunday family lunch. Keng Eng Kee Seafood (“KEK”) has been high on my family’s Tze-Char-bucket list for ages. Many friends of mine highly recommended it. For Tze Char, that is rare. So on Sunday, we finally made it! My Mum’s birthday celebration was an extremely good reason to justify ingesting all those calories. In the end, it was so worth it. Every dish we ordered was simply outstanding. It made us fall in love with Chinese food again. However KEK is a strange place. The pictures on the menu do its food no justice. They don’t look as appetizing as “real” life. Time for the restaurant to update its menu! Or maybe these days with the convenience of social media, hardly anyone flips through their menu, so why bother?

We arrived at the empty air-conditioned restaurant just before 12pm and my Dad was convinced the emptiness meant our food was in danger of being just so-so. We were so wrong. Within 15 minutes, all tables in the air-conditioned restaurant were occupied with every table ordering large portions of classic Tze Char dishes.

For our lunch, my family played safe too. We selected the most popular dishes featured on food blogs and Instagram. We expected the dishes to be good. But we ended up being blown away by seven out of eight ordered dishes. In fact the 咸蛋(炸)螃蟹 SALTED EGG (FRIED) CRAB was the best salted egg yolk crab I ever had! Think thick, creamy and luscious salted egg yolk sauce imbued with notes of curry. The 1kg crab may have been pricey at $65 but the flesh was sturdy. Instantly we tasted freshness. Our other crab dish, the classic 辣椒螃蟹 CHILLI CRAB was outstanding! Spicy with subtle sweetness, the addictive thick egg-y sauce caused us to drink it like it was soup! My favourite part of the two crab dishes was the abundance of crab roe. It has only been less than five hours and I am already craving for KEK’s crabs.

Other stalwarts we had: 黄金三拼(明珠卷,虾棗,油条) MIXED PLATTER (MINGZHU, PRAWN ROLLS & YOU TIAO). Center of the platter, the Mingzhu rolls were stuffed with mushrooms, prawns, egg yolk and ham encased in beancurd skin and deep-fried. This is a rarely-seen appetizer and we were instantly sold. The prawn roll balls were stuffed with minced prawns and cubes of vegetables. Highly addictive.

If you love your coffee, KEK’s 咖啡排骨 COFFEE PORK RIBS is unmissable. The aromatic smell of coffee will hit you the moment the plate arrives on your table. Not only did we fall madly in love with the smell, the freshness and tenderness of the pork were unbelievably impressive. 

For our vegetables, I could not resist insisting on the 鱿鱼应菜 KANGKONG W/ CUTTLEFISH. This boring-sounding dish was anything but! The crunchy KangKong stems were engulfed in a spicy-sweet sauce with heaps of crunchy cuttlefish. Marvellous.

My brother-in-laws likened the cuttlefish sauce to Thai Chilli Jam. Whatever it was, we liked it.

On the internet it seemed like you couldn’t visit KEK without ordering their 月光河粉 MOONLIGHT HORFUN and for good reason! A simple yet perfectly-executed dish rich with smokiness. The raw egg cooked by the heat of the flat noodles, that retained a bite, provided a sultry texture. My low-carb diet was swiftly thrown out the window with this one. Certainly my happiest problem for the weekend.


My parents liked this one: 砂煲姜葱猪肝 CLAYPOT PIG LIVER. I found it too liver-y or organ-y. But the braised brown sauce was arresting.

Here’s our ONLY disappointing dish of the afternoon: 脆皮烧鸡 ROASTED CHICKEN. When making reservations, I was advised to “reserve” this dish in advance. However this dry-to-the-bone chicken was just so-so. I doubt many of us went for a second piece.

However with seven out of eight dishes outstanding, KEK won our hearts. This is the best Tze Char restaurant I have ever visited! Classic Tze Char dishes prepared with utmost respect and care, the hype was warranted. For us, KEK exceeded all expectations.

Latteria Mozarella Bar: Would Return Just For The Desserts

Southern Italian restaurant, Latteria Mozarella Bar, on Duxton Hill may boost their cheese specialty but it will be their desserts that will bring me back. Last night, between my two friends and I, we had THREE desserts: two Tipsy Tiramisu Cups and the Raspberry & Pistachio Meringue Cake. Considering the size of the Tiramisu “Cup”, we went to town with our sugar intake. We were definitely not proud of our glutton behaviour  last night. Since we are unable to control each other, we resorted to promising not to have dinner together until six months later. 

The Tipsy Tiramisu Cup was first-bite magic. One cup between three of us just seemed inadequate hence the second order. The creaminess paired with the seriously-boozy sponge fingers topped with the most generous Coco Powder ever, made for a highly addictive sweet ending to our meal. We also liked that the dessert was devoid of any sickening-sweetness. Every bite tasted so fresh and home-made. Every spoonful a perfect contrast of luscious mascarpone cream and soaked fingers.

Equally spectacular was the Raspberry & Pistachio Meringue Cake. If not for the waiter swearing by this dessert, we would not have considered it. A thick crunchy meringue disk topped with generous and whipped-like-air cream, fresh raspberries, whole toasted pistachios, and a tangy raspberry compote. We were enamored by the perfect contrast of tangy berry components and only-slightly-sweet meringue. Heavenly. 

The savouries were not poor but just not outstanding. Out of the four we shared, only one savoury was spectacular and warranted a return visit. The handsome Grilled Whole Seabass Amalfitina was marinated in a salty green pesto. A triumphant highly unusual marinade! Although the kitchen was a little heavy-handed with the seasoning. The fish was cooked to perfection. The flesh so juicy and sweet, it literally melted away from the bones. A couple more dollars more expensive than the other dishes in the same category, I reckon given the portion, the most value-for-money.

There was no doubt our single plate of pasta for the evening: Linguine with Crab & Mascarpone was delicious. Generous crab shreds with al dente pasta combined with a tomato mascarpone sauce was spot-on! But it lacked oomph.

However our two appetizers could have been better. The Deepfried Calamari with Mayo & Arrabbiata may have been fried to perfection with a still-juicy and crunchy squid. But it was the weak batter that fell away from the squid so easily and quickly that was my biggest gripe. This made me miss the Calamari Fritti from Mozza in Epicurean Market last September.

Our second appetizer, a mammoth Burrata with Sweet Peppers Peperonata did not live up to its description on the front glossary page. My third time having Burrata, it lacked a juicy creamy center I had twice earlier. However praises for the sweet peppers peperonata! If sweet peppers tasted like this naturally, I would have it daily. 

We had a lovely house White wine to go with our dinner. I say, order the mains but remember to save tummy space for the desserts. You won’t regret it.