Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King Matsuri

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Easties can now rejoice. New on the list of restaurants in Singapore is one week old Tonkotsu King Matsuri – the sixth (wow) outlet of Ramen Keisuke. Instead of the usual, more centralized locations, Matsuri is settled at the basement of Parkway Parade. Matsuris are essentially Japanese festivals which the Japanese hold close to their hearts. Represented by elaborate parades, fireworks and floats, these festivals will now serve as inspiration behind  Tonkotsu King Matsuri. I realized soon afterwards that the different ramen here are named after different festivals!

Keisuke Takeda w ramen

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We started out with some side dishes that evening. If you haven’t visited Keisuke’s fifth outlet Gyoza King at Orchid Hotel, fret not. Gyoza ($3 for 3 pieces) is available here as a side dish (they are main courses at Gyoza King) and is made with the same recipe as that from Gyoza King. They are folded by hand over here! At the same time I was also introduced to the two carbonated drinks found only at Keisuke outlets – wasabi ginger ale and green tea cola. Soft drinks will never be the same again.

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Another side dish highly recommended to me was the Chicken Nanban with Tartar Sauce ($9), so I certainly had that. Slathered on pieces of crispy fried chicken is Keisuke’s own version of tartar sauce – or so I prefer to describe it as a delectable egg mayo concoct which complemented the fried chicken pretty well. This should be the mandatory side dish to order. I didn’t have the capacity to taste another side dish, but the Matsuri Meshi rice bowl ($7), topped with a sunny-side-up, chashu cubes and tobiko roe dressed with a specially blended shoyu sounds promising too.

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Tonkotsu Ramen Nebuta ($18.9 for special combo) is inspired by the Nebuta Matsuri festival held every August, which stages a parade of giant Nebuta lantern floats through the city’s main streets. The highlight for this ramen is the broth – made from a fusion of Tonkotsu and Niboshi broth. The Niboshi broth is special in that the stock is made of Japanese sardines which are particularly well known in Aomori. This gave rise to a rather pleasant savory broth with a touch of seafood flavors.

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The Tonkotsu Ramen Sanjya ($18.9 for special combo) is probably my favorite bowl among the 4(!) we had that night. This one is especially for the spice lovers out there. Inspired by the Sanjya Matsuri – a festival held every May in Asakusa, the ramen features three different spices – red chili, green chili and the black one consisting of minced pork. Before devouring the ramen and spices all at once, taste each one with a spoonful of broth – each one gives a different spice profile. Then mix all of them together and taste the powerful punch packed in by all of the spices. I love how each spoonful tasted slightly different from the previous, thus the element of surprise.

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Taking center stage in this bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen Awaodori ($18.9 for special combo) is Chef Keisuke’s secret recipe pork sukiyaki and a raw egg topped on tonkotsu ramen. As a result of the sukiyaki, the broth turned out sweeter than expected as well. The Awaodori Ramen pays homage to the Awaodori festival held in the Tokushima Prefecture every August, well-known for the dancing that thousands of people take part in on the streets.

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Having tried a similar version from Tonkotsu Four Seasons, I was pretty excited to try the Tonkotsu Ramen Yukimatsuri ($18.9 for special combo), whose name came from the Yuki Matsuri held every February in Sapporo in Hokkaido, during which snow and ice sculptures adorn the wintry city streets. The broth combines a tonkotsu broth with miso stock and is topped by a dollop of parmesan cheese powder. This might be a tad heavy on the palate for some but I reckon if you like cheese and a slightly creamier broth, it would be great.

Keisuke Takeda at entrance

As a fan of Ramen Keisuke, I never fail to shower each branch with praises. From the first to the sixth, every outlet has its own concept and I like how even the ramen is unique to each outlet. Quickly head down to Matsuri before the queues start to snake just like those at a typical Ramen Keisuke restaurant.

This was a media invitation – thanks Tecks!

 

80 Marine Parade Road

#B1-18A

Parkway Parade

Singapore 449269

11.30am – 10pm daily

The Lokal

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So, so so many new cafes in Singapore. (too many?) There came to a point in time where I was coming to know about a new cafe each day without fail,  be it through Instagram, blogger friends or the world wide web in general. Pretty sure this influx of new cafes started in June or so, leaving us bloggers in a frenzy where we scurry off to as many of those hideouts as possible.

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Brought to you by Sarnies, The Lokal is Australian-inspired and has so far gotten the nod from food bloggers and cafe hoppers alike. The space is dim, with some light filtering in through a few windows by some tables. Indie vibes checked. Good thing’s that the layout is well-suited to pack people in groups of 4-5 without compromising much on spatial assets. We checked this place out just this Friday for lunch when the lunch menu was served from 11am onwards. Served from 8am to 11am is the breakfast menu which looked promising and fulfilling as well.

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Coffee here was such a delight. I had the cappuccino ($5.50) – smooth, aromatic, right acidity, no bitter aftertaste. Even the latte art’s on point! On the drinks menu there are also smoothies, freshly squeezed juices, teas and sodas so fret not, non-caffeine takers.

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My dish consists of smashed avocado, homemade ricotta cheese, pomelo and toasted almonds on sourdough ($18). A tad pricey though considering the small portion. It’s plain but it makes for something light and healthy on the palate. I’m especially recommending this to all the avocado lovers out there. And P.S. they do place some emphasis on the fact that they make the ricotta from scratch.

Another refreshing and light choice would be the Pita sabich sandwich filled with grilled aubergine, tomato, cucumber, boiled egg and hummus ($16). My friend thinks that the hummus makes this colorful dish tastes less simple as a vegetarian option.

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We also tried the Roast chicken panini with crispy pancetta, tomato, avocado cos and aioli ($15) – coming in a surprisingly bigger portion than the avocado dish. Those with larger stomachs should therefore opt for their sandwiches/burger. The Roast beef on rye, caramelized onions, watercress & grain mustard creme fraiche ($17) and Schnitzel burger, red slaw, grilled pineapple, Emmenthal cheese, lettuce, anchovy mayo on a sesame seed bun served with chunky chips ($28) are yet two other tantalizing alternatives.

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Do not leave without satisfying your sweet tooth. Both the Sticky date pudding with caramelized sauce & vanilla ice cream ($12) and Banana cake with caramelized bananas & hokey pokey ice cream ($12) called out to us so we had both. Between the two, our favorite was the banana cake which felt somewhat like a french toast. The cake was soft but substantial enough to be soaked in syrup that didn’t make it too soggy. I loved how it’s not too cloyingly sweet. Meanwhile, the sticky date pudding, though decent, was pretty average. I would prefer a spongier pudding which would soak up some butterscotch sauce instead of their version which was too dense for my liking.

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Overall verdict? I’m giving the nod too. This is one promising establishment amongst the whole new lot of them – friendly service, quality grub. They so deserve another trip down.

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136 Neil Road

Singapore 088865

Mon – Fri 8am to 6pm

Sat & Sun 9am to 4pm

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Best Waffles in Singapore

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Long gone were the days of breakfast where the simplicity of toasts take the center of attention on the dining table. Things have evolved from those olden days of traditional goodness to bring about something bigger (quite literally) than before. Despite its long, lingering presence from medieval times, this quintessential dessert is back to please both young and old. Presenting to you – the fab waffle. Here is my guide to the city’s best, in no particular order whatsoever.

wimbly lu

Predominantly a chocolate and desserts cafe, Wimbly Lu serves up waffles that are indisputably one of the best on the island. The X factor? Their waffles are crisp on the exterior and fluffy interior-wise. Accompanied with them are their homemade ice cream with flavors including chocolate truffle, honey cinnamon (must-try!) and salted caramel. Though Wimbly Lu boasts an interesting array of cakes (try the root beer cake), pies and tarts, the conventional waffle remains as the crowd’s favorite. Don’t miss this quaint spot. The waffles with a scoop of ice cream are priced at $8.50 and $3 for an additional scoop.

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strangers
The newly renovated Strangers’ Reunion may cause a controversy on the spatial arrangement but one thing’s for sure, the waffles are still as crispy and popular as ever. Choose your buttermilk waffles with either berry compote and ice cream ($13.90), artisan greek yogurt ($12.90), strawberry maceration and ice cream ($13.90) or maple syrup and fresh fruits ($11.90). Tip: Go for the artisan greek yogurt, which is also my favorite. Recently, Strangers’ Reunion has opened Waffle Slayer just next door, featuring gourmet waffles of exotic flavors. If you’re bold enough, pop by next door and get that squid ink waffle as well.

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assembly

New kid on the block Assembly Coffee is a “third wave coffee movement” which is getting busier by the day, what with the good coffee paired with scrumptious waffles you can get at this small cafe. The Salted caramel buttermilk waffles ($11.50) packs a powerful punch with the thick salted caramel (oh so good) drizzled all over vanilla ice cream atop crispy yet fluffy waffles. Indeed, this new cafe with a thriving business can give old favorites like Strangers’ Reunion and Wimbly Lu a run for their money. An alternative to the salted caramel version is the Chocolate and strawberries ($11.50).

 

creamier
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Catered to the joy of heartland folks is Creamier, an ice cream parlor under a block of flats in old residential estate Toa Payoh. I’ve been a proud fan of Creamier since their early days of establishment and even though the space is getting less spacious and quiet, it doesn’t stop me from setting up ice cream dates with friends here. Creamier’s waffles come in fun-sized squares and are extremely crispy, thick and airy. Some of the more crowd-pleasing ice cream flavors include the signature sea salt gula melaka, the seasonal orange milk chocolate, and the limited edition satsuma imo. The possibilities are endlessly interesting. Waffles with a scoop of ice cream are priced at $8.50 and $2.50 for an additional scoop.

 

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Department of Caffeine, or D.O.C. in short, has served up waffles which rose to fame almost instantaneously for their quality. The result is the hefty price tag put on each of them. Despite that, cafe-hoppers come and go without complaints and instead, relish the all-time favorite Buttermilk waffles with ice cream and rum bananas ($15, $4 for additional scoop of ice cream). Those rum-soaked bananas on that thick waffle are sure to make you crave for more. Other waffles include the waffles with peanut butter jelly ($14), the savory sundried tomato and herbs waffle ($17) and the limited edition valrhona chocolate waffles ($20).

 

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salted

Yet another ice cream parlor, Salted Caramel has gained the delights of both school kids and working adults alike with their quality ice cream and waffles at pocket-friendly prices. Try their recommended flavors, which include salted caramel (…obviously), horlicks tim tam, and espresso & caramel biscuits. The only gripe I have is with it’s ill consistency at times. Waffle with a scoop of ice cream is priced at $6.50 and $2 for an additional scoop.

 

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UNA Dining and Tapas Bar

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After the closure of popular noshing spots in Rochester such as Roast and Graze, the regular patron may just be feeling a little melancholic. Well, fret not. The past few months of renovation and refurbishment of One Rochester have led to the opening of latest Spanish kid on the block, UNA Dining and Tapas Bar. Helmed by Chef Jean Philippe Patruno previously from Bomba Paella Bar, UNA is Singapore’s first bar and restaurant that brings together the authentic and rich flavors of Spanish, Italian and French home-styled cuisines. This concept is termed the ‘South of Latitude 30°‘ (SOL30°).

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The interiors of UNA are split into 2 separate dining areas with different sets of menus – UNA Dining on the first level and UNA Tapas Bar on the second. UNA Dining is set in a lush garden setting with classic white decor – also perfect for the many weddings which are frequently held here. The full menu (designed by Chef Philippe) here offers a fine selection of starters, mains, desserts and drinks. On the other hand, UNA Tapas Bar provides a casual, laid-back atmosphere with a full bar. Here, choose from a range of spirits, mixers and artisanal cocktails on the bar menu (specially created by Proof & Co) to go along with your tapas.

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And what better way to start off the meal with some classic, specialty cocktails? The Le Bucky ($19) above is a refreshing mix of bourbon, mathilde framboise, fresh apple juice, fresh lemon juice and ginger beer while the Bastille ($20) is a combination of gin, hibiscus, maraschino, amaranto and fresh lemon juice.

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We got started with some small plates. Among them was the beautifully plated Heirloom Tomatoes, Piquillo Peppers and Burrata ($18 for small, $28 for large) which caught our eyes. From the soft burrata cheese to the juicy cubes of tomatoes, this petite dish makes for a light, refreshing appetizer.

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If you’d like soup, go for the starter Gazpacho Salmojero ($12 for small, $22 for large) which was recommended to me by a server - a cold dish of a rich tomato and cucumber soup alongside with a quail egg and Sicily olive oil. Though the tomato-based soup requires an initial acquired taste, I thought that the texture and consistency was excellent – smooth and substantially thick.

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Hanger Steak Tartare, Slow-cooked Egg Yolk, Watercress ($28 for small, $38 for large)

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Iberico Pork Belly and Smoked Chorizo Mash ($32 for small, $42 for large) – I was in awe of the 24 hour slow-cooked spanish pork belly which was cooked to near perfection. It was tender in the mouth and the springiness of pork belly which I abhor is also at is bare minimum. The smoked mash with chorizo oil in the middle deserves a mention as well.

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Another huge favorite for that day would be the Wild Sea Bass with Serrano Ham and Caviar D’Aubergines ($40 for small, $50 for large). The sea bass had a crisp exterior with touches of salt and its insides were soft – this was suitably coupled with the dry cured serrano ham.

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Towards the end of our meal, the kind bartenders recommended the cocktail Champs de Fraise ($19) which is only offered on UNA Dining’s menu. The concoction – strawberry infused cognac, fresh lemon juice and sparkling wine presented a fruity fizz which I enjoyed more compared to the aforementioned cocktails I had.

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I’m always particular about my desserts and UNA’s desserts were right on spot to me. The Pedro Ximenez Panna Cotta, Popcorn ($14 for small, $18 for large), unlike the usual panna cotta, came in a glass shooter and was uniquely topped with popcorn. Fortunately, the salted popcorn complemented the sweeter, smoother pudding it was laid upon. The panna cotta was as creamy as how it should be, making this version one of the best I’ve had.

Falling a little short of our expectations was the Churros dipped in chocolate and accompanied by honey ice cream ($16 for small, $20 for large). They were too crispy (for my liking) such that they broke easily. A fluffier and chewier interior would better befit them churros. Shoutout to the honey ice cream though.

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From the idyllic environment of the restaurant to the helpful service provided by servers and bartenders to the cuisine itself, the dining experience at UNA, I believe, should not be skipped. You’ll be surprised at how every intricate detail matches with the other, be it ingredient-wise or interior-wise. This is definitely in accord with Chef Patruno’s vision for UNA – “an exquisite dining experience providing the best of [his] worlds, with heartfelt and comforting foods that will form great memories.”

 

All food shown in this post are of the small portions.

This was an invited media tasting.

1 Rochester Park

UNA Dining – Mon to Sat 6pm – 11pm

UNA Tapas Bar – Mon to Sat 6pm – 1am

Closed on Sundays

www.onerochester.com 

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One Man Coffee

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The Upper Thomson food enclave is just starting to get livened up. Adding on to the list of cafes is 3 months old One Man Coffee, which I’ve visited thrice already. If you’re having some trouble searching, just look out for Crust Gourmet Pizza – essentially both share the same space, and I find that a smart move with reference to rental issues. After all, Crust only opens it’s doors after 5 in the evening. Decor wise… yet another hipster layout – think wooden tables on bare cement floors.

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Go for their coffee before anything else – I find them tasting more robust each time and there’s the occasional blend they use from Axil Coffee Roasters. For something savory, go for the Gashouse Eggs or, according to the menu, a.k.a. Toad in the Hole, or (also according to the menu), a.k.a Eggs in a Basket ($10), which is essentially an egg cracked in the middle of a toast. What’s interesting is the smoky bacon jam that comes alongside it – it may be an acquired taste for a few but I rave over it in a mainstream manner.

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Most pastries here displayed in the glass cabinet are from B.A.O and Edith Patisserie, otherwise made in-house. The Salted Caramel Danish ($4.5) was a sweet delight while the Almond Croissant ($4.5) was a pity as it lacked a fresh crisp, even though it was decent.

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We had a lovely cake affair. Our favorite has got to be the Peanut Butter Banana Cake ($6.5) which came from Edith Patisserie, what with those layers of smooth and creamy peanut butter, enhancing the taste of the typical banana cake. As we sank our teeth into the next item – the Lemon Cake ($6.5), it’s airiness and fluffiness could be felt immediately, in contrast to the former banana cake. The tinge of sweet and sour was just right. Lastly was the Chocolate Raspberry Cake ($6.5), which I felt had some texture which made it interesting but a combination a tad unfitting.

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Thank god for the Ham & Cheese Croissant ($6) which offsets the almond croissant. Nothing could go wrong with an uber crispy croissant, even if it’s just basic ham and cheese sandwiched between the layers.

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This has got to be the best, if not one of the best Brioche French Toast ($10) I’ve ever had. The brioche was done just as moist, fluffy and warm as I’d liked and topped with nuts and a dollop of fresh cream. Not that I’m complaining but I certainly wouldn’t mind if it came with vanilla bean ice-cream instead. It definitely scores extra points for that presentation giving it an artisanal, deconstructed look. On my second visit, the french toast had scored even better than the first.

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Unlike some other cafes (which I shall not name), I feel that One Man Coffee is less pretentious and works it’s way towards serving both great coffee and brunch. Main problem’s with the consistency. On a good day my Toad in the Hole would come with a runny yolk in the middle which oozes like a poached egg. On less exciting days the yolk turns out overly cooked and less delectable. I guess there’s always room for improvement, but consistency is by far the key to sustainability. Overall, my impression remains very pleasant so it’s worth the trip down – hurry up now, before it gets as crowded as neighboring Habitat Coffee. Both are equally good, just that One Man gains some extra “hipster” points. I can’t wait to be back again.

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215R Upper Thomson Road
Singapore 574349
Monday – Sunday (except Tuesday) 9am – 5pm

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