[Johor Bahru] People and Places Cafe

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This semester break, I started venturing into Johor Bahru to café hop and I did wonder why I haven’t done this earlier, especially since a dish there can cost only up to a third of that in Singapore. Apart from the more common cafes, I went to this gem of a place most recently and in my head I’ve been deliberating whether to share it asap, or make a few more return trips first. But here I am starting to write just less than a week after my brunch and thus so it is that I am pretty bad at keeping such news to myself.

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Located in the industrial area near Taman Mount Austin is People and Places, a 2 months old café serving up Melbournian brunch and coffee. Having already seen pictures on Instagram, I knew what to expect. Everything from the 2-storey high ceiling to the concrete layout to the drapey plants and succulent furnishings completed the look of the industrial warehouse café theme. It reminded me so much of my laid back, café hopping days in Melbourne.

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To my coffee-drinking friends and readers, don’t skip the coffee here. I ordered the Mocha (RM10.5) for myself and was surprised by how smooth it was. The acidity level was also just right for me. I have not gone to many cafes in JB yet but so far, this was the best cup. The Matcha Latte (RM13) was legit as well with its distinct tones of matcha yet not leaving a powdery aftertaste.  

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Our main courses then came very promptly, and very prettily. I mean – look at those pink poached eggs of the Aussie’s Avo on Toast (RM25), which also came with mashed avocado, pomegranate, feta, dukkah and dried chili flakes served on dark rye bread. This was a simple and comforting dish and I loved the colours at play.  

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Call me basic as you wish, but I can never resist getting hotcakes if I spot them on the menu. The Melbourne’s Signature Hotcake (RM23) came in a portion smaller than what I expected, albeit with a price 1/3 of what I usually pay in Singapore/Melbourne. Though decent, the hotcake could be fluffier (note to self: shoot more quickly next time I’m here) and infused with more blueberries on the inside. I also thought that the pea sprout’s bitterness didn’t match the taste profile of the hotcake.

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And it turns out that our favorite was their Asian take on the quesadilla – the Quesadilla Breakie (RM25). What won us over was the smooth, creamy tomyam scrambled eggs paired with sriracha aioli sandwiched between tortilla sheets, exuding an authentic but not overpowering taste of tomyam. This felt like a refreshing breath of air amongst the old western brunch classics.  

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The prompt and friendly service here, short waiting time for food and drinks, and quality ingredients used here proves that this place is more than just an Instagram worthy café. It’s somewhere I would like to frequent, as it is for my usual haunts. Yes, I will be back for sure.  

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P.S. As of current, the exact address of the café is not on Grab/Uber so you might have to re-pin the location to elsewhere nearby, like the adjacent road.

People and Places Café

6, Jalan Kencana Emas 2/3, Perindustrian Tebrau III, Johor Bahru

Tel: +60 7 351 5303

Tue to Sun 10am – 6pm (Closed on Mon)

Brothers in Fine Food

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From the owners behind Penny University and Fluff Bakery, Brothers in Fine Food, or BFF in short, is a 6 months old halal café restaurant in Tampines. Unlike his other eateries, owner Mouss decided to focus on high yet affordable gastronomy at his third establishment.

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It is impossible to not give attention to the coffee at BFF since it is set up by the founder of Penny University. I vaguely remember those days I’ve spent having coffee and brunch at Penny University till they became too packed on weekends. That was years ago, by the way. The interesting, pink-rather-than-red Red Velvet Hot Chocolate ($5.50) seems to be a popular drink here. What you can expect are quite subtle chocolaty tones.

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Served in a small glass jar with a lid is the Spiked Muddy Espresso with Gula Melaka ($6.50), which was on the milkier side. Stir well to mix in the bottom layer of gula melaka for that sweet shot. Would also love to try their Orange Hot Chocolate ($5.50) and Jaffa Orange Mocha ($6) in the future!

The style of food here is best described by Mouss as mix of modern European Mediterranean, North African and loads of Asian influences. It also seems like they innovate and experiment a lot here.

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For sides to start with, we had the Duck Ragout ($9), featuring 24-hour pulled smoked duck served on taglietelle pasta with tomato cream ragout sauce and basil. The pasta tends to get dry after a while, so you’ll have to dig in quick. I wished there could be more slice of duck though.

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We were caught by surprise by the Grilled Aubergine with Tahini ($7) as the eggplant was well-executed, rid of its natural bitterness.

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Served in a rather generous portion, the Lamb Harissa ($18) was made by 12-hour low temperature braising of lamb in a tomato reduction, though I find that the harissa could be spicier as I like it to be.

Being the only vegetarian option of the main courses, the Spinach and Feta Pie ($13) turned out as a comforting dish. The Filo pastry pie was stuffed with spinach mixed with feta cheese, then served with sweet carrot puree on the side. Rather than a main, this felt like a light bite that was not heavy on the palate at all.

There were pretty decent reviews on the Churros ($4.80/$5.30) here but alas, they weren’t available that day. Instead, we went for their new desserts which made us forget about the churros quickly.

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A traditional snack hailing from Indonesia, the Nagasari ($8) is remade into a beautifully plated dessert. The white steamed cakes filled with caramelized bananas were incredibly smooth and moist especially on the inside. Also accompanied by gula melaka foam, sautéed coconut shavings and crumbs for that interplay of textures.

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Baked to the right amount of moisture, the orange infused Polenta Cake ($9) with apple coulis, cardamom syrup and flavoured cream was a mix of sweet and citrusy flavours.

Having lunch there that day was like stepping out of my comfort zone, from the travelling to a part of Singapore most might not have visited, to the eclectic, not-the-usual café fare on their revamped menu. On weekends, a different brunch menu is whipped out instead, and I definitely wouldn’t mind a taste of that someday.

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Brothers in Fine Food

5 Tampines Ave 3, #02-07, Tampines West Community Club, Singapore 529705

Tel: +65 9008 9314

Tue to Fri 12pm – 10.30pm, Sat to Sun 9am – 10.30pm

The Affogato Bar

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As an avid café hopper, I’ve got to admit that the café scene in Singapore is dulling – new cafes are lacking that flavour and older cafes are either getting overcrowded or dropping in standards. Recently, however, I did stumble (online) on a pretty outstanding new café in Bukit Timah.

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Dubbing themselves “Asia’s First Affogato Bar”, the spotlight goes to their special creations of affogatos, each one making use of a different ice cream flavour from their ice cream bar and matched with different toppings.

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The Death by Chocolate ($13.90) is not for the faint-hearted. Rather than a uniform flavour of chocolate throughout, the affogato features complex layers of chocolate sorbet, brownie chunks, chocolate streusels, chocolate top hat, topped with Grande Tazza espresso – slightly bitter in some, sweet in the others. Good for sharing as it might get overbearing, or too rich for some.

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If you’ve only got space for one item, go for my favourite affogato here, which is also the recommended Carota Carota ($13.90). Showcasing the unique carrot cake flavoured ice cream and drizzled this dish also felt like a deconstructed carrot cake, chopped walnuts, homemade cream cheese, topped with Mocharoma espresso. I liked how natural the flavour of the ice cream was and how airy and moist the cake was, albeit a sponge cake. Neither the carrot cake nor espresso overpowered each other.

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Making a very Instagram-worthy shot would be the Banana Ramble ($12.90), comprising butter pecan ice cream, banana cake, fresh banana slices and pecans, topped with Mocharoma espresso. It’s not cloyingly sweet thanks to the bitter tones of espresso.

Non-coffee drinkers need not feel excluded here. More than an affogato bar, the all-day menu also includes bagel sandwiches and ice cream. We were surprised to find that the bagel sandwiches here are comparable to the ones from specialized bagel stores.

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We had both the Breakfast Club ($12.90) – toasted bagel with cooked ham, cheddar cheese, egg, mesclun mix, gruyere béchamel sauce and Deli Beef ($14.90) – toasted bagel with cooked corned beef, fresh onions, sun-dried tomato, arugula, sun-dried tomato cream cheese. Alternatively, you can also opt for your choice of bagel to go along with just your pick of flavoured cream cheese.

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On a final note, the affogato prices here are not incredibly affordable, but for such extraordinary affogatos they are worth at least the first try.

The Affogato Bar

501 Bukit Timah Road, #01-04B, Cluny Court

Daily 8am – 11pm

Tel: +65 9238 9005

7 Cafes in Seoul & Busan

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Only about a year has passed since my last trip to Seoul but I was surprised to realize that the number of cafes has increased tremendously. Café goers are also upping up their game, wanting to be the first to experience a new space. With their minimalist interior concept, minimal menu items, good coffee and simple (yet appetizing) food, café culture here never fails to disappoint me. I’ve also included two cafes from Busan – yes, café culture is just as great there.

If you haven’t, check out my list of things to do in Seoul here – 5 Things You Must Try in Seoul

and my first edition of cafes in Seoul here – 5 Cafes to Visit in Seoul 

1. HYUNSANGSO (현상소)

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Even with the address, one might find it hard to locate this showroom cum café which is up a tiny slope of houses. The exterior is as nondescript as ever, with a barely visible board at the door. Thank god for Naver blogs.

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From its off-white wooden tile flooring to its off-white curtains, ceiling and table cloths, this café is decked in just this one shade of white, and screams minimalism. A corner of this space is dedicated to making and designing fabrics and I suppose part of the furniture within the café is made right there.

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Don’t be surprised if the employees hand you envelopes. They contain photocopied “letters” of a handwritten menu. Such an un-gimmicky gimmick. All coffees here are 7000KRW each, which is considered to be on the high side even in Seoul. We did enjoy our Iced Mocha (7000KRW) and the Espresso (7000KRW) though. I just thought it was funny that my tall glass of iced mocha and that one shot of espresso were priced evenly.

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The Apple & Cinnamon Oat Crumble Pie (7000KRW) wasn’t served warm but since it was one of the best apple crumble pies I’ve had, I had no complaints.

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1F 24 Mallijae-ro 37-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul

Bagpack courtesy of Gaston Luga, code “crystalwee15” for 15% off the site.

11am – 5pm, 6pm – 10pm daily

Tel: +82 02-312-0318

 

2. HUNGO RINGO BREAD  (훈고링고브레드)

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This cutesy bakery is just one of the many cafes you can find in Mapo-gu, an up and rising district for new cafes to open in. The café is full of mismatched coloured furniture, creating a whimsical atmosphere and is also much smaller than expected, making it a cosy corner as well. I wished I had a day to relax here, read a book, people-watch…

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Specializing in bread, coffee and pound cakes, I just had to try their Green Tea Pound Cake (3500KRW). It turned out a tad dry (so you’ve got to eat it with the cream) but the green tea was quite distinct and not too sweet. We also tried a Canele (1500KRW) which was moist.

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Pairing either the Black Tea (4500KRW) or Ringo Hand Drip Coffee (4500KRW) with their baked goods would be a very good choice.

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2F 130 Jandari-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Tue to Sat 12pm – 9pm, Sun 12pm – 5pm

Closed on Mon, 1st & 3rd Tue of the month

Tel: +82 02-336-9676

 

3. CAFE MILD (마일드)

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Just right before my trip, I stumbled upon yet another one of my favourite kind of cafe – white and minimal – on Instagram. It being located near Commonground (a hipster container market) became the deciding factor which got it on the itinerary.

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The café was only 2.5 months old when I went in mid-May, and I waited in line with another café hopper for it to open. Within an hour of its opening, the café started to get full and lively with conversations, but not in a noisy manner.  

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The Cream Cappuccino (5500KRW) seemed to be the most popular choice amongst the beverages here and I could understand why. Resembling the new cream kiss drink from dalkomm coffee, the cream on top was mildly sweet and mildly thick, making the cappuccino richer and creamier.

We didn’t have any choice with regards to food since there was only one main and one dessert on the menu that day. Both the Salmon Sandwich (7500KRW) and Rare Cheese Cake (5000KRW) I had a raw, wholesome taste to it, in that they are not heavy on seasoning or flavours of saltiness or sweetness.

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54-5 Jayang-dong, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul

11.30am – 9.30pm daily

 

4. SCOFF BAKEHOUSE (스코프)

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Hidden deep within a quiet alley of a residential area, this bakery is helmed by a British chef turned baker, together with his Korean wife. They’ve been gaining so much popularity that they are on to their second outlet now. I stepped into this second branch and went, “Damn, these lucky residents.”

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Overwhelmed by the aesthetically pleasing British baked goods laid out in trays, I had the hardest time of my life picking which ones to get, besides their signature brownies.

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The good thing about this branch is the dine-in area on the 2nd floor – the Seochon branch is a takeaway-only store. We eventually got our pastries and coffee and headed upstairs to dig in. My favourite was no doubt the Scoff Brownie (4000KRW) which was chocolatey rich yet moist.

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The Chelsea Bun (4000KRW) is not just a normal cinnamon roll, what with the lemon sugar topping giving a subtle zest. Although the cream cheese overload from the Orange Cream Cheese Bun (4000KRW) might make it hard for one to finish it on his own, the Orange Vanilla Cake (4500KRW) was a good balance of sweet and citrusy flavours that you won’t want to share it.

The huge portions made the pastries impossible to finish for breakfast, and it turned out to my pleasant surprise that they remained rather soft and moist even after refrigerating them overnight.

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Seochon branch

90-2 Nuha-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Tue to Sun 10am – 7.30pm

Tel: +82 070-7761-1739

 

Buam branch

278-5 Buam-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Tue to Fri 11am – 6pm, Sat to Sun 11am – 7pm

Tel: +82 070-8801-1739

 

5. CHANG’S KITCHEN 2 (소격동 장진우식당)

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Rather than a café, Chang’s Kitchen 2 is more of a modern restaurant serving up western fare in semi-formal style. Interior-wise, this all-white restaurant features an open-kitchen concept in the middle, while diners dine round the perimeter along bar counters. You’ll experience a view overlooking Gyeongbokgung Palace through ceiling-high glass windows.  

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The Strawberry & Gorgonzola Crunch Salad (17000KRW) was perhaps something I wouldn’t order usually but I was so glad I did. The play on textures was great especially with the crunchy lettuce and walnuts, and the combination of sweet strawberries and salty gorgonzola turned out interesting.

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Our not-as-pretty Braised Oxtail with Burdock & Truffle Mashed Potato (25000KRW) featured a generous portion tender, melt-in-your-mouth oxtail atop a bed of truffle mash. Taste and portion-wise, this was very much worth it.

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3F 66 Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Lunch 11.30am – 4pm, Dinner 5.30pm – 9pm daily

Tel: +82 02-734-9100

 

6. 4 YEARS APART (네살차이)

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After 5 days in Seoul, I departed for Busan – where café hopping didn’t come to a halt. We arrived at 3pm and but had to be put on a waiting list since the café was full. That was how I realized how much café culture is being appreciated here.

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Run by a soft-spoken couple, the café is spacious, with rustic wooden furniture against a white backdrop.

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I would say take a break from coffee and go for their fancy, colourful sodas here like the Blueberry Lime Soda (6000KRW) I had. It may be a tad too sweet for some but I loved the refreshing blueberry sorbet that came with it.

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For desserts, we had the Matcha & Cocoa Pound Cake (4000KRW) and Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Pound Cake (4000KRW). I personally preferred the latter for its combination that worked out well, and also since it was more moist.

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8 Gwangnam-ro 258beon-gil, Suyeong-gu, Busan

Tue to Thu, Sat to Sun 12pm – 9pm, Mon & Fri 2pm – 9pm

Tel: +82 010-9909-6398

 

7. ORDINARY FLOWER & CAFE (오디너리 플라워 카페)

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One of the most well-known cafes in Busan among the locals, Ordinary Flower & Café serves as a flower shop/design studio/workshop space and café so you can anticipate a lovely, dreamy floral interior.

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While I was there, only the owner herself was manning the café, preparing all orders of food and drinks from scratch on her own. Wow. Thus we waited about 20-30 minutes to get our order but we were totally soaking in the quiet, cozy atmosphere in the meantime. I’m gonna miss Korean café culture.

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The Ordinary French Toast (8000KRW) was just ordinarily good, somewhat like a comfort breakfast your mom would prepare the moment you wake up. We also had the Melting Chocolate Bread (4000KRW) which had molten chocolate within, a Vanilla Latte (5000KRW) and Cappuccino (4500KRW). Still amazed that one person dished up all of those.

35-1 Jeonpodae-ro 77beon-gil, Busan

Tue to Sat 12pm – 6pm, Sun 12pm – 5pm

Tel: +82 010-2607-8409

 

Psst I’m open to replying to any questions you have on my Seoul/Busan trip, just drop me an email at stalwee@gmail.com.

JAAN Singapore

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A while back, I was honoured to be invited by Chef Kirk Westaway himself, who currently helms the one Michelin Star JAAN. JAAN is that one dream restaurant that I’ve been wanting to try since I started food photography and writing but somehow have not. And to finally have the chance to dine here felt somewhat like fulfilling a childhood dream. What I had was Chef’s interpretation of spring dishes, some of which are still served on the menu from time to time.

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One of the most beautifully plated dishes I’ve seen, the Alaskan King Crab was a sight to behold. Wrapped in pickled kohlrabi and paired with fresh sea urchin, salmon roe from Hokkaido and osetra caviar, this made such an exquisite appetizer. In the middle of the dish is fromage blanc sorbet on top of a pea of panna cotta, and finished with delicate edible flowers.

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Who knew beetroot could encompass such a diverse range of tastes? The Golden Beetroot, a medley of multi-coloured beetroot approached three ways, consisted of roasted beetroot wedges, golden beetroot sorbet on a hazelnut cazzette and balanced with a red beetroot puree.

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An all-time seasonal favorite of Chef Kirk is the Pertuis Asparagus, comprising green asparagus blanched simply & finished with butter glaze, chargrilled white asparagus with a parmesan crust, exquisite champagne hollandaise, green asparagus puree, joselito ham, fried bread crumbs and oxalus leaves. For someone who rarely eats stalks of greens, I unexpectedly enjoyed the asparagus thoroughly. It had a superbly clean taste and amazing crunch.

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What I really liked about the Line Caught Snapper served with prawn, poached red & white kabu wedges, white kabu puree, minced kabu stem, ikura eggs and green almond powder was the subtle sweetness of the snapper and prawn, balanced with savoury elements such as ikura.

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While some of us thought the snapper was the best dish that day, I personally preferred the Cannon of Lamb, being a fan of red meat. One of Chef Kirk’s most laborious dishes, he uses the entire saddle of organic Welsh lamb to create a rich lamb ballotine which is sous vide then pan-roasted. This resulted in golden, crisp skin round the lamb which gave it crunch, while the meat in the middle remained tender. Accompanying the cannon of lamb is lamb belly braised overnight and lamb shoulder. No gamey taste is left behind in this delicate main course.

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Before moving on to our desserts, we had the Amalfi Lemon Granite as a palate cleanser. The highlight is (no surprise) the prized Amalfi Lemon which is Chef Kirk’s favorite lemon. This lemon is only farmed along the Amalfi Coast of Italy, mind you. Essentially, this dish features the lemon done in several ways – Amalfi lemon sorbet and foam atop a lemon granite and fresh lemon pieces, finished with freshly grated lemon zest. This came as such a refreshing dish and I was scraping off every bit from the oversized bowl.

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The modern interpretation of the Pear & Ginger Tart was like a beautiful, deconstructed plated dessert that brought us to a sweet end. Caramel roasted wedges of Comice pear infused with white balsamic vinegar balance on filo pastry are accompanied with panna cotta, caramel apple and ginger ice cream, oat crumble, caramel cream and pear chutney.  

On weekdays, the set lunch menu is definitely most worthy for your dollar, and you have the options of a 4-course ($88++), 5-course ($128++) and 6-course ($158++) set menu to choose from. JAAN follows a seasonal menu and items do vary from time to time even within each seasonal menu, depending on available ingredients. We’re only halfway through this year, but I had a feeling that this meal would be probably be my best gastronomic experience of the year.

Many thanks to Chef Kirk for his kind invitation and his brilliant execution of the dishes.

JAAN

Level 70, Equinox Complex, 2 Stamford Road, Singapore 178882

Tel: +65 6837 3322

Lunch: Mon to Sat 12pm – 2.30pm, Dinner: Mon to Sat 7pm – 10pm

SBCD Korean Tofu House

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We’ve had our fair share of Korean restaurants specializing in grilled meats, bingsu, jjajangmyeon and others but an eatery specializing in tofu stew? Now that’s a first.

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SBCD Korean Tofu House (not to be confused with BCD Tofu House in Los Angeles) is our first ever Korean restaurant that specializes in Korean soft tofu soup (soondubu). SBCD, though completely unaffiliated with BCD Tofu House, borrows concepts and is inspired by the latter.

For appetizers, we had the Japchae with beef, egg and mixed vegetables ($19.90) and Prawn Tofu Pancake ($19.90), which can fill you up rather quickly. I’d say skip these and go straight for the tofu stew and main courses.

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Among the main courses, we tried the LA Galbi ($35.90), Spicy Raw Flower Crab ($29.90) and the Spicy Grilled Chicken ($25.90).

The Spicy Raw Flower Crab is a new item only recently added to the menu so I was pretty excited to get a taste of it. It was also my first experience eating a raw crab (which only few restaurants in Singapore serve, by the way). I did like the acquired taste though my friend (a soy sauce raw crab lover) felt that the chili paste might have overpowered the taste of the raw crab itself. Which was also understandable since some might not be comfortable with the raw taste.

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That one dish that delivered more than we expected was the Spicy Grilled Chicken. We were rather impressed with the marinate and sauce which was not overly heavy and thus kept us reaching out for more.

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More than anything, the hearty stew and soft, delicate tofu of the Ham & Cheese Soontofu ($19.90) I had stood out. Although still differentiable, the tofu stew here did come close in taste to the one I’ve had in Korea recently. Note that you’re allowed to choose your spice level ranging from mild to medium, spicy and crazy hot.  Each order of soontofu also comes with hot stone rice & side dishes. Of which, we were pretty pleased to see a whole fried fish among the side dishes. The only gripe I had was that the side dishes cannot be refilled.

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Despite there being a range of mains and sides to accompany soft tofu stews on the menu, I felt that the tofu stew was not overshadowed by the other dishes, keeping its spot as the highlight of our meal. If you’re going with others, the main courses are worth a try too. It’s prime location at Tanjong Pagar Centre right next to Tanjong Pagar MRT station targets the working crowd, so go early if you’re thinking of heading there for lunch!

And in case you’re looking for lunch or dinner to go, they’ve also launched Soontofu Dosirak sets ranging from $14 to $16, specially for takeout. Yes, these sets even include their tofu stew within them along with rice and your choice of meat.

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Thank you SBCD Korean Tofu House for the invite and Brian and Brandon for the kind hospitality.

7 Wallich Street, #B1-01/02, Tanjong Pagar Centre, Singapore 078884

Tel: +65 6386 6441

Mon – Sun 11.30am – 10pm

10 Cafes to Visit in Melbourne

An impetuous decision led the café-hopping buddies and I to five short yet fruitful (or should I say food-ful) days in the city of Melbourne. There was not a day we went without caffeine, brunch and alcohol. In mourning of the fact that we simply had no time for the scenic Great Ocean Road and Philips Island, we stuffed… and stuffed.

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  1. Industry Beans – For brunch in an industrial setting

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Also a great spot for al fresco dining. We had a few brunch dishes here like the Green Papaya and Peanut Crusted Egg (AUD19) – carrot, beanshoots, peanuts, coriander and nahm jim – but the desserts stood out the most.

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It has been months but the Coffee Garden (AUD14) – coffee custard pudding, coffee caviar, chocolate soil, pistachio sponge and tuille – is still that memorable. The distinct coffee flavour from the pudding and unique coffee caviar is quite out of this world and the thought of lingering coffee aftertaste remains.

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And if you like warm, gooey marshmallows, the Kaffir Lime Marshmallow (AUD12) – micro coriander, warmed ginger custard and crumb – is a must try.

3/62 Rose St, Fitzroy VIC 3065, Australia

Mon – Fri 7am – 4pm, Sat – Sun 8am – 4pm

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  1. Hammer and Tong 412 – For extraordinary brunch dishes

Hammer and Tong is a hot place to be among the Melbournians, so be there early or be prepared to wait in line. We thankfully got a table in 30 minutes.

The ox cheek of the Ox Cheek Benedict (AUD18.5) – poached eggs, hollandaise, fermented & pickled chilli on sourdough – was the highlight of this dish, being tender with a tinge of spice. Australians still take pride in whipping out a mean dish of eggs benedict.

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Ice cream and candied bacon?! You did not read the menu wrongly. This extraordinary, breakfast item may have some acquired taste to it, but is definitely worth the try. The bacon is served cold, unfried and of a thicker cut. When eaten with the ice cream, the taste is hard to describe – an unusual yet satisfying mix of sweet and savoury. Duck Egg & Candied Bacon Waffle (AUD21) – sriracha caramel ice cream, toffee popcorn, maple & seeded mustard syrup

We couldn’t bear to dig into the beautifully plated Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt Parfait (AUD15) – basil, fruits, black rice granola & shortcake crumble – till the end. But when we did dig in, it made for a very sweet finish to our brunch.

412 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065, Australia

7am – 4pm daily

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  1. Lune Croissanterie – For the best croissants in Asia Pacific

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Read the full review here.

119 Rose St, Fitzroy VIC 3065, Australia

Mon, Thu – Fri 7.30am – 3pm, Sat – Sun 8am – 3pm

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  1. Top Paddock – For that plate of ricotta hotcake

Dubbed the origin of the famed ricotta hotcake, Top Paddock was once the Top brunch pick when it first opened for business, and remains a Top spot. Though the Blueberry & Ricotta Hotcake with Berries, Maple Syrup, Seeds & Cream (AUD21) here is nearly identical in taste and appearance to that at The Kettle Black, I couldn’t help but order it again.

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We also tried the Coconut Chia Pudding with Qld. Pineapple, Raspberries, Elderflower Syrup & Buckwheat Crumble (AUD17) and Fresh Qld. Soft-shell Mud Crab with Fennel & Dill Salad & Lime Mayonnaise in a Brioche Bun (AUD24). It was hard finding anything to nitpick on.

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658 Church St, Richmond VIC 3121, Australia

Mon – Fri 7am – 4pm, Sat – Sun 8am – 4pm

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  1. The Kettle Black – For that plate of ricotta hotcake… in a white setting

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Read the full review here.

50 Albert Road, South Melbourne VIC 3205, Australia

Mon – Fri 7am – 4pm, Sat – Sun 8am – 4pm

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  1. Hash Specialty Coffee and Roaster – For an underrated, hidden gem in the CBD

Our late lunch at Hash was an unplanned one – we just needed a place to rest our legs. It turned out to be surprisingly impressive.

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My personal favorite was the Summer Waffle (AUD17.5) – Toasted Waffle, Citrus Ricotta, Grilled Mango, Macadamia Crumb. Served Belgian style, the waffles were slathered in a sinful dose of maple syrup, sandwiching sweet mango and sprinkled with ricotta. It appealed very much to the sweet tooth in me and the tad of citrus flavor helped balance the sweetness.

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We also thought the Hot Chocolate (AUD6) – 85% Mork Chocolate served with a healthy dose of fairy floss could be ordinary or even subpar hot chocolate disguised as a gimmick with conical flasks and girl-attracting fairy floss, but it was actually legit.

113 Hardware St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

Mon – Fri 7am – 4pm, Sat – Sun 8am – 5pm

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  1. The Kitchen at Weylandts – For amazing light, shadows and decor

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Within the furniture shop Weylandts (which screams interior goals by the way) is The Kitchen at Weylandts. The café may only take up a small corner of the entire store but I did take longer than expected to shoot here. I was literally trying to photograph every corner. Will deffo do brunch here if I’m ever back in the city.

200 Gipps St, Abbotsford VIC 3067, Australia

Mon – Fri 7.30am – 4pm, Sat – Sun 8am – 4pm

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  1. Tall Timber – For their Tall white brick walls

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En route to Prahran Market, we passed by Tall Timber unintentionally and got very tempted by its white-washed brick walls and wooden tables. This is one place I could sit all day in, admiring the simple, minimal interiors.

60 Commercial Road, Prahran VIC 3181, Australia

Mon – Fri 7am – 4pm, Sat – Sun 7.30am – 4pm

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  1. St. Ali

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Housed in a huge, converted warehouse space is St. Ali Coffee Roasters. St. Ali is known to be a pioneer of the specialty coffee movement of single estate and single origin coffee beans, and a contributor to the third coffee wave in Melbourne, which means that this is the place to be for coffee addicts.

12 – 18 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne VIC 3205, Australia

7am – 6pm daily

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  1. Doughboys Doughnuts – For fancy flavoured donuts

Quite possibly the most popular doughnut chain here, Doughboys Doughnuts opened a permanent store just last year and is extremely convenient if you’re in the CBD. On display are both staple and rotating flavours. You also get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of doughnut baking through an open kitchen concept. Our favourite had to be the Key Lime Pie (AUD5.5) – lime curd filled Doughsie with toasted meringue and lime spiked pie crumbs. The lime curd especially won us over, with its perfect level of both sweet and sourness.

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We also had Bullseye (AUD5.5) – House made berry compote Doughsie on vanilla bean icing with soft shortbread crumble and Butterscotch Banana (AUD5) – butterscotch topped creamed banana Heilala vanilla bean icing dusted with house made chocolate brownie crumbs. The latter two were a tad too sweet, and we had to admit that the doughnuts are not cheap at all.

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535 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

Mon – Fri 7am – 4.30pm

Some extras for you:

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Rustica Sourdough – For that all-too-pretty Ispahan Croissant

As we were exploring Fitzroy, we passed by a bakery-café with a long (but fast-moving) queue so we peered inside. The first thing that caught our eye was the stretch of gorgeous pastries on display, including danishes, croissants, cronuts and brioche donuts. Of course we had to go for the prettiest one – the Ispahan Croissant (AUD6.50) – twice baked with rose, lychee, almond and raspberry.  Rosewater icing and dried flower petals served as icing on the croissant which made it look enticing. Beneath the flaky layers was a filling of rose, lychee, raspberry and almonds. I wished there could be more distinct lychee and rose flavours though it was not all too bad.

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402 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065, Australia

Mon – Sat 7am – 4pm, Sun 8am – 4pm

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N2 Extreme Gelato – For instagram-worthy gelato

We went for one of the most popular flavours, the Ferrero Reveal (AUD8) – chocolate syringe, rice bubble chocolate top, nutella and hazelnut gelato with rice bubbles. Sad to say, we felt that it was overrated as the nutella flavoured gelato didn’t live up to our expectations. We expected some stronger, thicker, more luscious taste of nutella but ended up with a faint taste. Later, we were informed about Gelato Messina which was deemed by Melbournians to be a better pick for gelato. Aesthetics go to N2 Extreme though.

18 Sutherland St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia

Mon – Thu 1pm – 10pm, Fri – Sat 1pm – 11pm

VLV Singapore’s Weekend Dim Sum Brunch Buffet

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Recently named one of the best new restaurants of 2016 by Wong Ah Yoke of The Straits Times, VLV is set to be a hit among diners in the following year. That’s not all. More than a restaurant specializing in Chinese cuisine, VLV also serves as a bar and club by night. Somehow I managed to eat, drink and club here for 3 consecutive weeks and that says how deserving of a visit this place is.

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Every Sunday, VLV dishes out a 4-hour long champagne dim sum brunch buffet which is perfect for families. Expect themed parties for this buffet (which they announce in advance on their Facebook page) and a majestic dining experience.

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When we arrived, all the sizzling and bubbling from the live station had us camera-armed bloggers headed over before we could even take a good look at the menu. Several items stood out from the live station, including the simple and nostalgic Curry Fishball & Fried Pig Skin that most of us always scramble for at night markets. We couldn’t help but go for multiple rounds of it.

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The Fried Radish Cake, or “Carrot Cake”, with Egg & Bean Sprouts in Sambal Paste is fried onsite by a chef in action and is another dish from the live station you can’t miss.  The range of congees – Century Egg Shredded Pork (our foodies’ pick), Grouper, Chicken, Liwan Boat Style – is pretty decent too. And for the chicken feet lovers out there, the Braised Chicken Feet in Abalone Jus will not disappoint.

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A whole range of dim sum offerings is made to order on the menu and likewise the live station, is free flow. It was tough to find an item that stood out the most since all were on par, but I do find the Steamed Kurobuta Pork Bun memorable. Other usual suspects you can find – Prawn Dumpling, Kurobuta Siew Mai, Wild Mushroom Dumpling, Spare Ribs with Olive Leaf & Pumpkin, Beancurd Skin Roll, Fried Rice Roll with Dried Shrimp, Glutinous Rice Chicken in Lotus Leaf.

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A highly recommended signature of VLV is the Crackling Pork Belly which is also available on the a la carte menu ($18). Possibly one of my favorite dishes altogether from VLV. Dip them in mustard on the side for a different dimension.

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Sorry, no fleshy finger-lickin’ crabs here for brunch.  However the Chili Crispy Soft Shell Crab (yet another VLV signature) would do just as well. The savoury chilli-based tomato sauce is shiok on its own, yet I wished we could have some mantous to dip them in. And meanwhile, the soft shell crab is really crispy and crunchy.

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For desserts, look out for the Traditional Egg Puffs, or “Hong Kong egglets” with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream which you can get by the waffle-making machines at the live station. This made a pretty Instagram-worthy shot, but unfortunately lacked the distinct crisp as from its counterparts in HK.

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Otherwise, there are still more desserts made to order from the buffet menu, namely the Mango Pomelo Sago, Oriental Cheese Cake, Black Glutinous Rice topped with Coconut Ice Cream and Fruits Platter.

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First seating 11.30am – 1.30pm

Second seating 1.30pm – 3.30pm

 

Adults pay $58++ per pax (without drinks)

$98++ per pax for free flow drinks (Bauget Jouette champagne, red wine, white wine, Suntory premium malt draft, brunch cocktails, juices, soft drinks, Chinese tea)

$128++ for free flow drinks (Charles Heidseick champagne, red wine, white wine, Suntory  premium malt, brunch cocktails, juices, soft drinks, Chinese tea)

Children (6-11 years old) $29++ per pax

 

VLV Singapore

3A River Valley Road, #01-02, Singapore 179020

Tel: +65 6661 0197

 

This was an invited media tasting.

CÉ LA VI’s new Modern Asian menu

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With a recent makeover to its menu, Ce La Vi has shifted its focus on modern Japanese to modern Asian cuisine: think traditional Asian sauces, paired with dishes prepared with Western cooking techniques. Here’s yet another place to consider for that elegant corporate lunch or snoozy weekend brunch.

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So we started our 10-course lunch that day (yes, 10 courses) with some all new appetizers. The peeled, sautéed Garlic Prawns ($35) tossed with chorizo and paprika were nicely marinated such that there were no distinct traces of fishiness. And I don’t usually eat prawns for that fishy taste, mind you.

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The garlic prawns were also all good to pair with the Marinated Angel Hair ($22) topped with tobiko (flying fish roe) and spring onion. Served al dente style, the pasta remained springy despite all that time we took to get that shot.

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What we felt could be more tender and juicy was the Pork Belly Lollipop ($24), glazed with smoked chili and coming with apple mustard sauce on the side which you should dip the pork belly in.

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And it so happens that the raw dishes were my favorites of all the courses. I got caught unaware by the spices around its sides as well as from the wasabi cream of the Seared Togarashi Tuna ($28), in a very good way in that the spices were fiery yet addictive.

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The combination of fried shallot toppings with the Black Angus Beef Carpaccio ($28) – served with pickled radish, wafu sauce and red radish – was a first for us and we found it interesting. It created additional texture

The Baby Spinach Salad ($20) with shiitake mushroom was all about the sauce, an infusion of goma and honey yuzu. That kept us reaching for our greens despite all the meat around to taste.

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We had two entrees – the first being the Roasted Lemongrass Chicken ($34), served with eggplant, zucchini, kaffir lime, green chili sauce and steamed rice. The green chili sauce was reminiscent of the Thai green curry sauce, while the kaffir lime and lemongrass gave a slight zest to the chicken.

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Meanwhile, the Slow Cooked Norwegian Salmon ($42) with teriyaki sauce, konbu, soy mirin glaze and rice roll was one seemingly simple, comfort dish done right. Especially so with that slow cooked salmon which is so moist that it slips down your throat. Apparently, the salmon is sous vide for more than 8 hours, allowing it to retain lots of moisture.

Petit-Fours by Pastry Chef Ariane ($20) – tartlets, petit gateaux, chocolate pralines

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Don’t worry, the Popsicle Trio ($24) won’t melt so you go ahead and take the extra snap for instagram story. They are actually cakes in disguise – flavoured lemongrass, salted caramel + chocolate, and strawberry vanilla. We did prefer this over the petit-fours.

The best part to the revamp is for sure the option for a Power Lunch (daily from 12pm – 3pm), which you pick between a 3-course and 4-course set lunch menu. The 3-course ($38++ per pax) comprises an appetizer of marinated angel hair, entree of either the salmon or chicken and dessert of petit fours. Meanwhile, the 4-course set ($48++ per pax) includes an additional starter of black angus beef carpaccio or garlic prawns. This is one huge bang for your buck! I guarantee you’ll be incredibly stuffed and satisfied.

Ce La Vi Singapore

SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands, Tower 3

1 Bayfront Avenue

Thanks to Ce La Vi and W Asia for the invite.

Kinki Bottomless Brunch (Kinki Restaurant + Bar)

 
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It’s one of those Saturdays where you want to chill with a group of friends, update them on how crappy (or crazy) the week has been and laugh at each other’s misery. Yet at the same time you want good food and good booze in an informal setting. You want decent food, but not overly expensive food or overrated trends. Casual and fun atmosphere but not crazily crowded.

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So recently we found out that Kinki Restaurant + Bar matches all the criteria mentioned, what with the newly launched Kinki Bottomless Brunch exclusive to Saturdays from 12pm – 3pm. Following an ala carte buffet style, a free flow selection of sushi, maki, sashimi, mains, sides and desserts are available at a buffet-friendly price of $52++ per pax.

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Free flow soft drinks, tea, still and sparkling water are available with an additional $5++ per person; with free flow alcoholic options such as sake, shochu and prosecco at an additional $35++ and beer at $25++.

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If you’re not sure what to start with, simply get a serving of each type of sashimi available and then slowly browse through the menu. There’s Sake (salmon), Hamachi (yellowtail) and a surprisingly satisfying Maguro (bluefin tuna), though the leaner type.

From the choices of Makis, the Hot Dynamite is the hot item. Wrapped in a fried seaweed roll, the maki was crunchy on the first bite, revealing an interior of salmon, yellowtail, scallion and cayenne pepper.

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For cold dishes, expect items like the Snow Crab & Century Egg Tofu and the Momotaro Tomato. And so I was thinking, “How good can tomatoes be…” and it turned out to be very juicy, soft but not mushy, and packed with a savoury flavour from that ginger dressing.

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Some notable hot dishes include the Spiced Miso Edamame (Japanese soy beans) which was garnished with miso, garlic and soy. Not a fan of edamame but my friends thought Kinki served one of the much better edamame around.

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For myself, the roasted Baby Sweet Potato was memorable, especially with the sweet-savoury combination (but still on the sweeter side) of crispy bacon, chives and the generous drizzling of sweet miso crème fraiche on them. And the best part? They’re free flow! We just felt a little sad that the menu left out prawn tempura (they serve vegetable tempura for the buffet instead).

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However, the main courses are only available for a one-time order. Amongst them, the Wagyu Foie Gras Donburi, which is a highly raved signature at Kinki itself, is likely to be our favourite item from the buffet menu. I mean, who can say no to tender, thinly sliced beef wagyu and pan seared foie gras served over Japanese rice?

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I’m not even kidding when I say that we were so stuffed from all the savoury food that we didn’t have space for dessert. But if you somehow manage to have some space left, there’s always Green Tea, Black Sesame and/or Yuzu Sorbet ice cream to end on a sweeter note.

P.S. Kinki has also served up all new poke bowls at affordable prices for the lunch crowd, woohoo!

Thanks Karen and Kinki for the invite!

70 Collyer Quay

#02-02

Customs House

Mon to Sat 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 11pm

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