Open Farm Community – Suburban weekend brunch

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The newest venture by the Spa Esprit Group is taking flight quickly as seen by the mad rush of people to be amongst the first few to try out this place. Well I, just like a normal foodie out there, was hot on my heels to head down all the way to Dempsey to visit this “farm”. Yes, they do produce as much edible plants as they can in the backyard for their dishes. This venture is also a collaboration between Spa Esprit, Edible Garden City an Ryan Clift from The Tippling Club – these big names alone are enough to grab attention.

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The 35 000 square feet of space occupied is quite amazing. From the main entrance, it feels like I’ve stepped into a garden, what with the vines of edible plants all around. You’ll pass through an alfresco area holding several tables, including a table tennis table. The area would be perfect for families to laze in for Sunday brunch, if not for the sweltering 34 degrees weather these days. The alfresco area leads to a small “hut” where the coffee roasters and baristas are. Good news for you if you’re a fan (just like me) of the roasts from Common Man Coffee Roasters. Then you will eventually reach the main indoor dining area, flanked by a bar and open kitchen of two sides and floor-to-ceiling windows on the other 2 sides of the restaurant. Absolutely dreamy.

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On my first occasion there, I tried the brunch menu (available from 11am – 5.30pm on weekends). Having tried a truffle scrambled egg that turned out odd from a restaurant which shall not be named, I had a doubt about the one here, but that doubt faded the moment I tucked into a bite of their Truffle Scrambled Organic Egg with shimeji and portobello mushrooms, baby spinach and sourdough ($24). The truffle was well-infused and came in a generous portion in the eggs. The scrambled eggs were also creamy enough. I proclaim this to be my favorite scrambled eggs dish in Singapore ever, even though the mushrooms on the side were quite normal

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However, both my friend and I thought that their Buttermilk Pancakes with creme patisserie, poached strawberries, ice cream ($22) was less value-for-money. The pancakes lacked sufficient fluff and were pretty average but were saved by the vanilla bean custard in between the pancake layers as well as the strawberry toppings. It’s a pity since it looks photogenic. I guess people will still order them anyway.

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You have been advised: Don’t leave without trying their desserts. Their most talked-about dish here (from what I observed) is not any main course or brunch item but surprisingly their Lemon Tart with basil ice cream ($17), so there. Aesthetically speaking, it seems more like a mille feuille than a tart, but it was exactly the alternating layers of  lemon filling and flaky, crisp puff pastry resembling a mille feuille which won me over. Being slightly sweet and neither overly sour nor dense, the lemon curd was perfect for my tastebuds. Basil ice cream came on the side and it made the dessert even more refreshing. Our meal ended on a pretty high note thanks to this.

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No doubt that prices here are above that of your average weekend brunch dishes, as some might have lamented. Well to me, the ambiance and highlights of the meal more than made up for those prices. You’ve just got to pick the right items from the menu. If  brunch is too overrated for you, opt for the lunch/dinner menu which features a range of seasonal pastas and main courses. Who’s up for another trip back here with me?

130E Minden Road
Singapore 248819

Mon – Fri 12pm to 3pm (Lunch), 6pm to 10pm (Dinner)
Sat, Sun & PH 11am to 10pm

Henri Charpentier

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I bet most of you would have heard about this classy French-inspired Japanese patisserie by now, ever since their grand opening in the lush Dempsey Hill last year (they’re located right next to House @ Dempsey, yet another one of my favorite hangouts in the area). I’ve long wanted to be here but somehow haven’t gotten the chance till last month to do so. I remember looking longingly at their glamorous entrance to the restaurant, laid out for you with a hot (close to neon) pink carpet. Stepping on it almost makes you feel like a celebrity attending a glitzy event.

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And if you’ve heard about Henri Charpentier, you would’ve probably come to know about their top 2 main desserts on the menu – their Crepe Suzette ($22) and Dome ($29). The highlight of both desserts is that the waiters will flambé (alighting the food with alcohol) personally next to your table. This factor alone justifies the price tag. For the Crepe Suzette ($22), the server would first prepare the zesty sauce in the pan, followed by adding 40% Grand Marnier cognac. Finally he adds in the two slices of crepes. Don’t tear your eyes off the burst of dancing blue flames. The resultant crepes are thin, soft and silky, sliding right into your mouth, and the sauce is buttery, orange-y and with an alcoholic touch to it. The bitter aftertaste of the alcohol is overshadowed by the sweet and zesty sauce too. Wish I could’ve more.

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As for the Dome ($29), strawberry liqueur is first heated by the server and then poured over the chocolate-coated sphere, resulting in a flambé engulfing the ball. The chocolate sphere then melts to reveal a chocolate parfait biscuit of fraise d’ amande. Before digging in, the server pours some strawberry sauce over the melted dome. The entire dome was a great mix of fresh, molten strawberries and melting chocolate. The interplay of smooth, creamy textures from the strawberry and chocolate mix and crunchy textures from the almonds enhanced the dessert pretty well. I momentarily forgot about the crepes I had earlier.

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We also got to savour the Afternoon Tea Set ($35 per pax) which is available on weekdays from 1-6pm – expect a three-tiered dessert stand of macarons, madeleines, financiers, glass shooters, creme brulee, mini almond tarts, apple scones, smoked salmon and parma ham canapes, a piece of crepe suzette and a beverage. Amongst all, the madeleines and financiers stole and shared the limelight. Both were adequately soft and very authentic – comparable to the ones in France. The apple scones were very soft and fluffy on the inside too. Unfortunately some of the other items were not up to standards, especially the macarons which had no crisp in their shells. Their meringues also lacked a distinctive flavor.

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Otherwise, there is also the Sandwich & Cake Set ($35) comes with a soup of the day, a piece of crepe suzette, ratatouille and a slice of cake – I picked the Matcha Opera which was rather memorable. The alternating layers of matcha and sponge cake complemented each other in such a way that the cake is neither overly rich nor sweet.

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If you’re looking specifically for a strawberry shortcake as a birthday cake, look no further than their Chantilly Fraise ($64.20 for 15cm cake). It had very soft and airy sponge layers with a mild sweetness to it. I rarely have strawberry cakes because of the heavy cream content, but even the fresh cream layers on this cake were not overbearing at all. I shared this with my relatives and everyone kept wanting for more! On a side note, they also offer delivery services which might be a better option to consider when getting this cake since it is a little unstable.

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Apart from the few subpar goodies, the experience here is stellar. The ambience makes you feel at ease and the service staff is attentive. I don’t deny that the desserts are expensive, but I think they are worth the money. P.S. Check out the heated toilet seats. Truly Japanese.

9A Dempsey R0ad

Open 11am – 10pm daily

 

This is a Crystal Wee X WAttention collaboration.

Chateraise – Japanese Patisserie in Westgate Mall

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With over an astounding number of 450 branches in Japan, Chateraise is not an unfamiliar brand for Japanese households to get their daily fix of goodies for breakfast and tea. We’re lucky enough to have Chateraise being brought in to Singapore, and I was there with the team at WAttention (a Japanese lifestyle magazine) at the Westgate store which opened just recently in April this year. With the Isetan Scotts store scheduled to open soon, non-Westies can also takeaway their Japanese fix at a more convenient location.

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Their latest item highlighted to me was the White Zebra ($4.70). This mille crepe made of 18 sheets of flavourful butter-rich crepes has soft, fluffy layers unlike western style mille crepes. I think it’s impossible to get sick of it since it is only as dense as a sponge cake. The layer of honey on top was just perfect to go with the crepe.

 

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Between the Baked Cheesecake and Souffle Cheesecake, I would recommend going for the latter – one of my favorites among those that I’ve tried from Chateraise which has a milder cheesecake flavour making it not as cheesy. It is also a lot airier since it was made souffle style. I also find it interesting that instead of a biscuit crumb base, a sponge cake base is used. On the other hand the baked cheesecake was a lot denser.

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The Mont Blanc, however, was pretty average. The whipped cream which tasted just like any other normal icing could be richer with a more distinct flavour of chestnut.

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They say that you can tell how good a Japanese bakery or patisserie is by looking at and tasting their strawberry shortcake, a must-have for most Japanese bakeries out there. The aesthetic of Chateraise’s Strawberry Cream Cake definitely scores, and the strawberries in it were generally sweet with a tinge of sourness which suited the cake pretty well. What was unfortunate was that I felt there was too much cream, albeit for a “fresh cream cake”. The layer in the middle had an unproportionate amount of cream compared to strawberries. P.S. If strawberries are not for you, there is also a blueberry flavor for this fresh cream cake!

I wished I had more stomach space at that time to try more of their pastries, especially their cartoon inspired ones (think of cakes shaped to look like bears)!! At such affordable prices, I believe even a trip to the west will be worth it for these decadent cakes.

 

3 Gateway Drive

Westgate, Isetan Jurong East B2

Sun – Thu 10am to 9pm

Fri, Sat, eve of PH 10am to 9.30pm

This is a Crystal Wee X WAttention collaboration.

Hoshino Coffee at Capitol Piazza

 
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Hoshino Coffee. How time flies. It has been two years since my last visit to their then one and only branch in Plaza Singapura. Since then, they’ve expanded over to Suntec City with their second branch and now they’re running a third branch over at Capitol Piazza.

Located in the basement, the new branch occupies a space just as large as the first. The décor here, however, seems a notch classier. The ambience is more laid-back, making the dining space feel somewhat like a post-retail therapy zone to chill. I later also found out that you can make a private room reservation here as well.

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The items exclusive to this newly opened branch include their pie pizzas and mille feuilles. Out of the Mushroom and Chicken Pie Pizza and Mixed Pie Pizza (both $15), I tried the former. The base of the pizza, being crispy and puff pastry-like, does make the pizza less heavy on the palate. The pizza also comes with some minestrone soup at the side to keep you going.

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They call this the Mille Feuille ($15), but it’s actually more of a mille feuille inspired pastry. We guessed that the strawberry version would be better than the banana version (as with most Japanese desserts) so we went for it. Sandwiched in between two thick and flaky puff pastries are strawberries with cream surrounding a scoop of ice cream right in the middle. Unfortunately there was way too much cream compared to the ice cream and strawberries and the cream was too thick to be enjoyed with the pastry.

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If there are less satisfactory dishes, you can always look forward to their soufflé pancakes which have always been raved about. From now till September, you can get their Soufflé Pancake with Peach ($17.80 for two pancakes, $14.50 for one pancake), part of the seasonal menu. I’m glad the standard of their pancakes have not dropped – it’s of the same consistency as 2 years ago and it was not too dry. This seasonal version is definitely more refreshing than having the pancakes plain.

My advice: Skip the mains, go straight into their soufflés and soufflé pancakes. You may also have to rush the service staff a little for your orders.

13 Stamford Road

Capitol Piazza

#B2-55

10.30am – 10.30pm daily

This is a Crystal Wee X WAttention collaboration.

Paddy Hills

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This is kind of a late post since my first visit to Paddy Hills was about 6 weeks ago but I thought I should visit a couple more times since I was pretty impressed by the initial dining experience here. I was getting bored of the other new cafes that opened so much so that I started to appreciate the old places I frequent a lot, but this new café that opened this year was surprisingly very promising.

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The café occupies a relatively huge space with a bar counter dividing the place into two halves. There are blue walls, wooden tables, green tiles and gold counter tops which seem like a mismatch of colors and textures but eventually gave rise to a pleasant aesthetic and ambiance. Stellar effort put into the décor for sure.

The menu splits into Daytime Eats (9.30am to 5pm) and Nightime Nosh (6pm onwards) and is packed with a variety of interesting eats. You’ll probably take some time to browse through the entire menu and pick the items. Word of advice: Order your items quickly as waiting times can be pretty long especially on the weekends.

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I’ve skipped the coffee here since reviews were not too impressed with it, and went ahead with their more popular fruit-based drinks. Taste like purple ($7) is made from cold pressed grapes. Albeit a little sweet, the basil taste kept the drink refreshing enough to go with the heavy main courses and sides here. It’s probably a wise choice to skip the caffeine here and go for their truly thirst-quenching drinks. Others include the Yuzu effervescence ($7), Rise and Grind ($7) and Pinkish Lemonade ($7). Otherwise there are also milkshakes like the Hawaii ($11) – a smooth coconut milkshake but came with an acquired taste.

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The fluffiest pancakes award definitely goes to the Orange ricotta pillows ($18). The stack of 3 came with a generous pool of orange caramel sauce along with a scoop of coconut ice cream. The caramel sauce which came with a mix of citrus, coconut and custard is possibly the X factor of this dish as well.

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Though not as soft and chewy as the traditional Korean version, the Toasted spicy rice cakes ($15) was oddly addictive as well, especially with the gochujang mayo which came on the side and added some spice to it.

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Who knew that mantou could be used for sliders? The Golden man tou sliders ($23) features beef patties with a great consistency in between sliced mantous. They came with an equally good sweet potato fries on the side. Well I’ve had a couple of versions of sweet potato fries recently and I must say that their thin, crispy purple sweet potato fries is one to beat. They tasted even better when dipped in their homemade BBQ sauce.

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Possibly the most popular item on the menu would be the Berry ricotta hotcake ($19), what with its rave reviews and photogenic aesthetic. I like how the edges of the hotcake come with a slight crisp to it, while the insides are fluffy as ever. Strangers’ Reunion has a similar hotcake which I happened to try as well but this alternative seems a lot better. Some has even compared it to the famous ones from Top Paddock in Melbourne. I just wish they could give extra maple syrup on the side to pour over it.

Some other items I’ve tried:

Small breakfast ($12) – toasted bread, truffle polenta mash, sous vide egg, double roasted mushrooms. I thought that the truffle-infused polenta, or cornmeal, was pretty good. This dish is good for small eaters.

Salmon carpaccio ($18) – the portion was a tad small but I was impressed by the freshness of the house cured salmon.

Kimchi fried rice ($20) – the addition of a salted hangar steak and sous vide egg made this simple Korean dish a lot more exquisite, hearty and flavourful. I wish that there could be more traces of kimchi in the fried rice though.

Chicken in a bag ($15) – these pieces of fried chicken came in a paper bag on a plate. “So does fried chicken tastes better in a paper bag?” I asked. These came with the homemade bbq sauce which comes along with the golden man tou sliders as well. The fried chicken was decent but nothing to shout about.

Unlike other cafes, Paddy Hills whips up dishes with each dish having its own uniqueness. This is one place you should never tire of. Its location in an ulu area near Haw Par Villa means that it might not be the most accessible café around, but I assure you that the venture will be worth it.

38 South Buona Vista Road
9.30am – 10pm daily

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