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Monday, 30 June 2014

Dinner at Five & Dime Eatery

I have been trying to eat brunch at Five & Dime Eatery for a while, but after three failed attempts (once no reservation, once I didnt take their 3 seatings on Sundays seriously, etc), I decided to forgo brunch here and take dinner with the Beau instead.

Located at 297 River Valley Road, Singapore 238338, one could say that Five & Dime Eatery is located at the end of a row of shophouses - but its pretty exterior gives it a quaint, standalone appearance, doesnt it? I like the pretty, white, European-looking outlook that makes it stand out from the rest of the shops in the same row. The number for reservations is 9236 5002.

The interior somewhat belies its quasi-elegant exterior, but exudes a warm, cosy ambience complete with chalkboard menus and colorful artwork adorning the walls. They have a cute clipboard menu, but their drinks menu is more adorable - resembling a passport.

We began the meal with a Today's Soup (SGD$7.00) - cream of corn and bacon this evening. The soup was creamy smooth without being too thick, and resplendent of corn's sweetness. The bits and pieces of bacon was more for texture; the bread went well with the piping hot soup.

Then they served my Salmon Rocket Salad (SGD$15.00) - flame torched salmon sashimi wrapped with arugula leaves, with wasabi mirin dressing. It was a combination of two of my favorite things - salmon sashimi and arugula leaves! The salmon sashimi was saccharine and rather fresh, made all the more tasty with overtures of smokiness because it was torched on the underside.

Next, our shared main course of Mentaiko Pasta (SGD$18.00) came - spaghetti tossed in creamy mentaiko topped with cod fish roe - the pasta was rather springy but dry - there was no sauce detected, much less creamy. The palatable spicy cod roe made up for the lack of gravy though.

We also shared a side of Spicy Miso Wings (SGD$7.00) - 6 pieces of half wings tossed in spicy miso sauce - juicy, spicy and sapid in flavor. It tasted like tomato-paste chicken with a heavy burst of saltiness, so after the first few impressive bites, we both agreed that the taste was a little overwhelming. You have to eat it with bread, rice or pasta to neutralise the flavors.

Lastly, it was desserts time, and we decided on the Lemon Tart (SGD$9.00) - pretty slice of refreshing, citrusy fruit tart on crunchy crust with dashes of sweet and sour. We loved this dessert, and even love the layer of brown sugar coating the lemon and lime slices by the side.

Trip to Build Homes

I have always been interested in signing up for one of those week-long / 2-weeks long build-a-house-or-school trip for the indigent villagers in rural areas of developing countries. However,  I have also heard stories (from people who went for such trips before) that the living conditions, especially sanitarian, may be unbearable. Hence, when opportunity arose for me to volunteer for a day to do so in a certain island of Indonesia, I jumped at it.

Prior to the trip, there were briefings and photos for us to have an idea of how the whole event was to be like. We were also given a kit containing everything from a Tee-shirt to mosquito patches to gloves, cap, poncho, list of itiinerary etc. I'd neglected to snap a photo of that.

So we set off early in the morning and boarded the ferry which would take us to a neighboring island where we would begin a laborious but meaningful day. Before the trip, some colleagues and friends were teasing us, especially the girls, "what could you do there?", thinking that we were probably too weak or pampered to be of use. Here we were about to prove them wrong.

We had thought that we would be laying cement and piling bricks though, truth be knownst. When we got to the construction sites, we were briefed not just on the jobscope and worksite safety, but were also taught certain cultural ethics such as not to greet the  workers when our backs were facing them, not to touch the neighbors' kids if they pop by to say hi, etc.

It was raining, which did not dampen our moods despite our worry that the mud might stain our footwear, we donned the ponchos and continued to learn from the seasoned workers on site. Some of us chose to do digging - with the pitchfork and wheel-barrow literally.

Some of us helped to create the wire frames to used to secure the base when they lay foundations for the houses. Do not be fooled by this deceptively-simple looking task, it got rather tedious because the knots had to be perfect, and very tight.

We also helped with bending the wires to make them into tiny rectangular frames, and other manual tasks as required on-site. It was an enriching learning experience, and initially we were all so green and clumsy we felt we were more trouble than help. As the morning progressed, we got the hang of it and came in very handy.

These houses were rather simple despite their solid facade, and we were amazed by the satellites on the rooftops. The villagers were very friendly and helpful in general. Was our contribution significant overall? I should think so, since we were informed that the houses here took 20 - 30 days to build only.

Lunch was a treat - a neat box filled with a portion of rice, keropok, chicken cooked adabo-style, chilli fish, cabbage, honeydew slices and mineral water. We gathered around the worksite to take our lunch just like the construction workers themselves - a rather interesting and humbling experience.

We continued with our various tasks on hand. Some of us headed to learn to make cement from scratch literally. It was very gratifying to actually watch people create something out of nothing - I mean, look at them, they don't have the sophisticated machineries or cement trucks we have here in Singapore, so they do everything by hand - and still are able to build houses this way.

Came 2.00pm, we actually had tea-break, a surprise delight - a lovely box containing an egg tart, a nine-layer kueh and a pastry that was indiscernable because I did not eat that. We were grateful for the rain earlier on because it kept the scorching heat at bay throughout the day.

Finally, at around 3.30pm, it was time to clean up the tools, wrap up whatever we were doing, and call it a day. There were thank-you speeches from the villagers and we had certificates from the organiser etc, but the take-home rewards were far greater, I feel.

The tiny fella that kept us entertained

We see another side to life and appreciate how fortunate we are here. We learn to work together as a team, and some cultural lessons, as well as the humbling experience that makes one feel the need to be even more generous with their resources (at least for me). We were tired at the end of it all, but everyone enjoyed the meaningful experience, enjoyed the great workout, and made new friends - some of us even wished this event was longer than merely a day.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Lunch at The Citrus House @ Central Mall

Central Mall is located at a rather good location - in front of it is Chinatown and Raffles Place; behind it is Robertson Quay, and across it is Clarke Quay. For food and drinks, that place is rather spoilt for choice. Nevertheless, when The Citrus House opened, it was something to look forward to, since it looked like a chic cafe with a chillout ambience with comfortable orange booth seats even.

The Citrus House is located at 1 Magazine Road #01-06 / 07 Central Mall, Singapore 059567 and the number to dial is 6536 3877. Done in monochrome tones and ceiling-to-floor glass, The Citrus House actually looks kind of like a sleek glass house from the outside. One side of the interior looks like a long bar-stand, with mirror panelled walls.

So, *Edgar and I were there for a simple lunch. He ordered The Ultimate Beef Burger (SGD$12.80) - thick beef patty topped with cheese served with home fries and salad. Whatever "home fries" meant, it was simply shoestring fries that were fried to a golden crispiness. The thick beef patty was dry and the taste was all right, nothing spectacular.

I had the Chicken Wing (SGD$6.00) served with Chipotle sauce (which was spelt as 'chipote sauce' on the menu), some Fruit Tarts I ordered from the counter (SGD$2.50 or $3.50 for 4 pieces) and a cup of Hot Chocolate (SGD$4.50).

The Chicken Wings were all right, nothing to boost about because it was bland in taste and the skin was not crispy. The Hot Chocolate tasted more like hot Milo which was disappointing. The Fruit Tarts were the only redeeming items - sweet but tasty, with a crunchy but fluffy crust to them, and the fruit atop were lovely but then one couldnt really go wrong with berries.

The overall verdict is that the food is overpriced for these standards and if no improvements are made, the office crowd could easily head elsewhere for their meals (since no one else comes here much except for office crowd).

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Dinner at Everything With Fries

It was another one of our Dinner cum Chillout nights and this time, the recommended venue was Everything with Fries, located at 40 Lorong Mambong, Holland Village, Singapore 277695 and the contact number is 6463 3741.

We had to wait in line for a while at the casual restaurant / cafe as it was crowded with eager diners. The stark white setting was comforting, giving a clean cut yet relaxing feel. When we were seated, the polite and friendly crew came over to take our orders.

We started with a round of different flavored Fries (SGD$5.90 each) - crispy and very tasty shoestring fries - Garlic with Herbs (sapid scrumptiousness of its flavors), Salt & Vinegar (delicious, like eating potato chips in that flavor) and Curry (not spicy, but resplendent of the curry fragrance).

The Grilled Pork Chop (SGD$17.90) was another delicacy that surprised us. Note that I am not a fan of anything pork, but I made an exception for this crunchy, tender, juicy, well-marinated pork chop. It was served on the side with Sour Cream fries, enhancing the taste of the dish to another level entirely. I liked this pork chop well enough that I actually returned with the Beau just to eat it again.

Now, the Chicken Nuggets, served with croutons and Caesar Salad (SGD$8.90). What a treat! Imagine crispy golden nuggets sitting atop a bed of greens, giving us the sinful indulgence but balancing it with healthy vegetables. I enjoyed this thoroughly.

Following the above, we also had the Skinny Wings (SGD$8.50). Well marinated in a herb-like spice, and with skin so crispy it melts in your mouth, these piping hot wings concealed some very tender flesh within the crispy exterior. This dish made our night for sure.

We ended the meal with a bite of heaven - Nutella Tart (SGD$4.90) - it comes with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream now. The tart is richly infused with chocolate's deliciousness, and comes with a crunchy crust. The sticky coat of chocolate sauce is the very essence of life for chocolate lovers, and we loved this creation immensely. I prefer it without the ice-cream  - it was drier, crustier and warm to perfection.

So there were 4 of us and each of us spent under SGD$20.00 to enjoy a simple but satisfying meal - what a nice discovery. I brought the Beau to eat shortly thereafter, and we also tried the One Egg Soup (SGD$7.90) - a creamy soup with a sunny-sideup fried egg in it! The sides were fried till a crispy brown, if you could believe it. Yes, it was also another item that made my experience with Everything with Fries worthwhile.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Lunch at Yixing Xuan Teahouse

Having passed by Yixing Xuan Teahouse for years, and being keenly aware of its existence all this while, today was the chosen day to have my lunch there. This traditional teahouse / Chinese eatery cum tea art centre is located at 30 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088453 among a row of shophouses, and the number to dial is 6224 6961.

This authentic teahouse is interesting because it is a restaurant serving lovely dimsum dishes, it is a school teaching tea appreciation, and it is a retail shop selling many kinds of traditional tea leaves as well as tea equipment (teapots and teacup sets). There are also tea appreciation workshops that one has to book in advance, to learn about the beauty and benefits of drinking tea.

Thedining area is done in a very ancient Chinese style, complete with white marble-top tables and an Oriental backdrop. The service is rather attentive in a sincere manner, and the ambience brings one back in time, back to olden Chinese days where one is soothed by a quiet tea hut and may relax to enjoy a good meal.

I ordered a cup of Pu-er tea (SGD$4.00, if I remember correctly) to start the meal with. The tea is brewed with real tea leaves, and harbors a very thick and strong flavor - aromatic, no doubt, and rich the way I like it (and expected, from a tea house!).

The first dish was the Har Gow (SGD$3.30) - steamed prawn dumplings, that almost every table ordered. My hopes for fresh, succulent shrimps dashed the moment I took the first bite. Disappointingly, the prawns were not fresh, and I could not understand why everyone ordered this dish. There was no bouncy sweetness to the flesh; there was an almost sour tinge to the dumplings, and the crystalline skin embracing it was nearly too sticky.

Next, I had the Chicken Feet (SGD$3.30) which were rather natural, without the overly-expanded texture most chicken feet in dimsum restaurants feature. The chicken feet (skin) was tender, and I enjoyed the spicy sauce it was infused in.

Finally, the Seafood Tofu (SGD$10.00) with meltingly-soft beancurd in a very smooth texture, topped with minced mini-patty of seafood (prawns detectable), and infused in a tasty savoury gravy - this was a very lovely dish and the beancurd pieces were so silken smooth one could just slurp it in (like soya beancurd) and it would slide the throat beautifully (I think).

All in all, this was a rather interesting dining experience, and I would like to come back to try the tea appreciation worhsop (SGD$20.00 for 4 types of tea) or tea appreciation session with dim sum lunch (SGD$30.00 for 4 types of tea and assortment of dimsum items).

Thursday, 26 June 2014

My Top 5 Salads

I love salads, and are still exploring salad at different places. Granted, the "Spinning Salads" at Lawry's restaurant is very sumptuous, as well as the gigantic salads at Tony Romas steakouse, or soft shell crab salads at Fish & Co etc, but I would like to list my usual salad digs here, places that I would flop to satiate my salad cravings at all times.

1. CAESAR SALAD at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
Photo source: http://www.liyanahanim.com/2011/09/i-know-i-know.html
The classic Caesar Salad with fresh, leafy lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, croutons, crispy bacon bits and additional order of smoked salmon (SGD$12.90) was a must-have whenever I popped by the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. I liked the traditional ingredients of what made a good Caesar Salad, and the smoked salmon added flavors to the fresh, light dish. It was the first time I fell in love with salads.

Disappointingly though, they have changed the menu for their Caesar Salad about a year back - the salad tastes different now, and instead of bacon bits they use large strips of non-crispy bacon with a very pungent (raw meat?) flavor to it. The current Caesar Salad costs more too, so it is a pity, really.


Now this is another Caesar Salad (SGD $15.90) to reckon with. They have the sweetly-fresh Romaine lettuce, crispy bacon bits and croutons - traditional ingredients of a good, classic Caesar Salad as well (although no eggs, a pity), and comes with my favorite smoked salmon. The sapid saltiness of smoked salmon, and the bouncy texture, always adds flavor to the lightly-flavored salad.

The best part is the "bowl" this Caesar Salad is served in - a thin cheese basket. At least two male friends / clients I know love this salad too, because of the taste and largely because of this tasty cheese basket.


I loved this salad from first bite, 3 years ago, and I still love it. The Tuna Sans salad (SGD$12.90) is a wonderful concoction of crunchy Romaine lettuce, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, mandarin oranges, avocado, breadstick and lovely peppery seared slices of fresh tuna. The dressing is sour, like lime / lemon juice, and the overall taste of this salad is wonder exploding on the palate. This is one healthy salad I wouldn't mind having everyday for meals, really.


I discovered this place place that serves fresh, create-your-own salad for SGD$10.00 (6 items), SGD$12.00 (for 6 basic items + 2 Toppings) or SGD$13.00 (for 6 basic items + Toppings + 2 Prime items).  This salad cost me SGD$13.00, and we tick all the items we want on an order chit placed on the tables.

My salad base was Lettuce. The 6 main items I chose were hard-boiled egg, kidney beans, black olives, carrot, cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese. The 2 Toppings (I'd only added this tier so I could add on the next 2 prime items) were cashew nuts and avocado. Then the main item I wanted (next 2 items) were the dried blueberries and prawns.

I chose the vinaigrette dressing, so it gave the salad a citrusy, refreshing flavor. Overall, the salad comprised of rather fresh ingredients, but I thought that the overwhelming amount of ingredients made it rather hard to chew.


This is a very new discovery, and a new love. You select your items from the order chit, and select grilled meat of choice. The ingredients are fresh, and the dressings are all home-made. I wrote an entry here so feel free to pop by for details on this place serving awesome salads. So one could have their healthy salads and satiate meat cravings at the same time without feeling guilty.

Here ends my salad journey, and as mentioned, I am still trying out more salads. Sometimes I make my own at home too - the best part is that you get to put any kinds of ingredients as you deem fit, and control the serving size.  It is fun to make one's own salads too, and you can be sure that the ingredients used are fresh.