Author Archives: Crystal Wee

Jeonju in Fall

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Jeonju had been that one city I’ve been wanting to visit. Seems like the countless of mentions of Jeonju bibimbap and hanoks in Korean language textbooks do their magic. And so, during my exchange in Korea, I thankfully got to visit in fall, when the fall foliage was at its peak (to be exact, I was there during the first few days of November). I believe this time is the best to travel around in Korea for cooling weather (~8 to 16oC) and the colors of fall. In this post, I’ll be sharing some of my tips and experiences.

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I arrived at my Jeonju accommodation on Friday night, which was a hostel providing private rooms booked on AirBnB. Despite the need to commute to the main tourist areas by bus for a few stops (Note: no trains in the city) and the slight rundown appearance on the outside, the room was very cheap, spotless and came with a tv, attached bathroom, humidifier and portable aircon. The owner is also experienced with foreigners. (Will provide the exact link if you request it from me!)

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The next morning, I headed down to the main attraction in Jeonju, which undisputedly is the Jeonju Hanok Village. With its vast expanse of hanok houses, even the Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul seems insignificant. Most of the other attractions in Jeonju are actually found within the Hanok Village itself, so you can expect to spend most of your time in Jeonju in the village. Personally, I spent an entire Saturday (about 7-8 hours) walking to cover every nook and cranny of the village.

At the main entrance of the Hanok Village, you will notice the Jeondong Cathedral as it stands out conspicuously with its European designs alongside traditional hanoks.

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Right at the entrance opposite the cathedral, you will spot the Gyeonggijeon Shrine, where you’ll get small snippets of Korean history, especially that of King Tae-jo (founder of Joseon dynasty). Later, I found out that the small bamboo garden in this attraction was a filming site for Love in the Moonlight. Note that a very small entrance fee is required.

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Food-wise – except for the popular street snack stalls (eg. P&B bakery [selling Jeonju chocolate pie – different from the usual Korean choco pie in that it is coated with a thicker chocolate coating and has a creamier, more distinct flavour of the pie itself. Try it for yourself], octopus skewers, famous dumpling shop) and restaurants which have long queues, I would recommend not eating in the village itself. Especially if you want to have an authentic experience of Jeonju bibimbap. Without that knowledge initially, I went to a restaurant in an alley of the village and had a mediocre and expensive bibimbap. That night, I visited the street of restaurants, bakeries and photo studios right along the village’s entrance and food there was way better.

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I also managed to try moju, a 1% alcoholic beverage made with makgeolli and a variety of Chinese oriental herbs, thus popular for its health benefits. As far as I know, it can only be found in Jeonju. I loved it for its cinnamon-y taste and thick consistency. It was just like the Korean oriental teas which I happen to like a lot too.

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After lunch, I had my first Hanbok experience in Korea. Besides hanboks, there are also many stores renting different kinds of costumes like school uniforms. There were also lots of people who cross-dressed (especially Korean boys in gisaeng hanboks), and I too shall attempt it one day.

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I took a stroll along the Jeonju River, where I unexpectedly found some good photo opportunities with wild silvergrass (which only blooms from October to November).

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The next stop from the river was the Jeonju Hyanggyo, which used to be a Confucian school. In autumn, the entranceway from the outer gate leading in to the halls was a bright yellow exhibition of gingko trees, falling leaves and fallen leaves.

 
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I highly recommend visiting the Omokdae and Imokdae pavilions, despite the short climb up a hill. On the way up or down, the unobstructed bird’s eye view of the hanok rooftops will be a treat for the eye. Go at sunset to catch the view of the hanoks against a backdrop of the setting sun.  I also took a short rest at the pavilion among local and foreign tourists.
 
If you cross a short bridge from the site of the pavilions, it will lead to the Jaman Mural Village, filled with colourful wall paintings of houses and small cafes.

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On my second day, I went to the other two main attractions outside of the Hanok Village are the Pungnammun Gate and Nambu Traditional Market, which merely takes 3 minutes on foot from the village’s main entrance. The market tends to be quiet in the day with most stalls closed, so I would recommend visiting it for the night market which operates every Friday and Saturday night from 6pm to midnight. The market is also popular for its Korean blood sausage (soondae) and beansprouts soup with rice.

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The second floor of Nambu Market is a youth mall featuring independent stalls established by youths who aspire to be entrepreneurs and business operators. I tried the pancakes, French toast and wine at a small café called 리리88, and was surprised by the affordable prices and homely taste of their brunch items.

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Having spent that short weekend in Jeonju, I could see why the number of visitors saw an exponential increase since the 2000s. The slow city comprehensively showcases traditional Korea, with a focus on the history of the Joseon dynasty, as well as various sights and food that can be hard to find elsewhere.

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New York City 2018 – 19

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My faint memories from the first NYC trip were finding a way to piece themselves back together as I entered the city last December after 5 whole years. This time, I stayed at Hamilton Heights in Upper Manhattan, a neighbourhood I was not familiar with. Despite initial worries about the long commute downtown every day and the safety of the area, we soon got used to taking the metro and the district turned out to be quite safe after all. We also got a decently large AirBnB for its price compared to the ones in midtown and downtown Manhattan, and which came with amazing views of the sunrise – something which I hardly caught.

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Although I was fighting off the cold which I will always find unbearable and a jetlag which attempted to close my eyes by dusk and force them shut by 10pm, I think I did cover much area in the city. Something I didn’t manage to do the previous time. So I brought together some images and recommendations of some of my favourite stops, in no particular order.

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La Mercerie – 53 Howard Street, New York, NY 10013

This French café cum furniture shop housed in one large space is an eye-stunner. I have always been a minimalist, yet I was amazed at how every corner of the space could be purposefully decorated with elegance and not feel cluttered at the same time. The Homemade Smoked Salmon here could not be compared to the one from Russ & Daughters, but everything else we had was satisfyingly good – Oeuf A La Coque (Buttered Soldiers), Maple Croissant (the French and their pastries!!), and even my Latte. The smaller than expected portions and inattentive wait staff were a pity.

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Happy Bones – 394 Broome St, New York, NY 10013

The space here was smaller than I expected with space just for 3 round marble tables, but the modern industrial vibes were right on point. The cafe also seemed good for doing work. I adored the coffee, and the pastries were alright, just that the banana bread was on the dry side.

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Flatiron Building – 175 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

This was my second time beneath the Flatiron, which serves as an office building. I find it hard to even appreciate architectural pieces of work, but I love looking at this building.

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Maman – 205 Hudson St, New York, NY 10013

When I had a meet up with an Instagram friend, we decided to meet at the latest outpost of famed bakery Maman. The rustic theme of Maman was a charm – the old-looking wooden tables and blue-and-white motifs on their plates, paper cups and coffee machine stood out to me the most. I only tried the quiche here and it was up to standard.

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Reynard – 80 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249

This modern American-style restaurant is located in the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. I had a weird combination of this duck porridge dish (which the waitress recommended) and a mimosa. The duck porridge was very Asian, very comforting, and it reminded me of home immediately. After our meal, we explored the hipster and partially gentrified neighborhood of Williamsburg. I loved the flea markets, book shops and independent clothing stores – all antique and vintage. There are also some notable stores we visited, namely Mast Brothers Chocolates and Le Labo (luxury perfumes, scents, oils). We grabbed some chocolates from Mast Brothers and I was surprised at how organic the chocolates tasted. In a good way of course.

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The Oculus – Church St, New York, NY 10006

Also known as the World Trade Centre Mall, The Oculus oddly felt like a mixture of VivoCity and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands – the high ceiling allowing daylight to shine through, luxury boutique stores and lots of tourists. Though we didn’t get anything here, we snapped the same-photo-that-everyone-takes-here and took a look at the 9/11 Memorial right outside.
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Russ & Daughters Café – 127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

We had not expected the 1 hour wait on a weekday afternoon, but we waited anyway. We then walked around LES to kill time, stopping by the instagram famous Freeman Alley which goes up to Freeman’s Restaurant, until we got called. It turned out that the wait was worth it. The Classic (smoked salmon along with bagels) was so memorable, I can hardly remember our other order of Sturgeon, Eggs and Onion. I could almost taste the sea in the smoked salmon, that was how fresh it was. My best brunch (turned mid-afternoon lunch) in NYC yet.

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Empire State Building – 20th West 34th St, New York, NY 10001

In consideration of the 2-hour queue ahead of us and my nearly empty stomach, we decided to ball and get the express pass up the Empire State – a decision we did not regret. Going on a cloudy day seemed better for less glare on blue light reflected on the buildings.

Brunch in Boston – Loyal Nine and Tatte Bakery

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I spent a short 2 days and 1 night in Boston while on a trip in NYC. It was my first time riding the Amtrak which ran from Penn Station in Manhattan. The seats were quite comfortable but the ride a tad too shaky for me – or at least when compared to the KTX in Korea. Right after arriving and dropping our bags off at the hotel, we headed out to our brunch spot in East Cambridge.

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Loyal Nine exudes of rustic, American vibes the moment you step in. Since I was there on a sunny afternoon, the space was also cast with the midday sunlight and shadows. It’s a space not to be missed.

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From the lunch menu, I ordered the Fried Chicken Sandwich (US$12) served with creamy slaw and pickled jalapenos while my friend got the Duck, Mushroom, Farro (a type of whole grain made from a certain species of wheat) (US$11). The seemingly odd combination went well and it tasted really healthy at the same time.

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I would love to have their weekend brunch.

Loyal Nine – 660 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02141, USA.

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The next morning was spent admiring the iconic Beacon Hill neighbourhood. The gloomy weather, though making travelling around harder, made the colours of the brick-red buildings pop. And although I’ve seen the cobblestones of Acorn Street often on photos online, seeing it directly was still fascinating.

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If you’re looking for brunch in Beacon Hill, Tatte Bakery, which opens all day, is a pretty good choice. Being one of the most popular bakeries in Boston, the Beacon Hill outlet I went was always crowded with customers that come and go.

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Their House Latte – Honey Halva & Cardamom Latte (US$4.75) is worth a mention for its natural sweetness from the honey and its complex flavours from cardamom.

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And then the Greek Style Pancakes (US$11) topped with Greek yogurt, sesame, and jam is worth many, many mentions for the right consistency in the pancakes. The Chicken, Orange & Kale Salad (US$14) that I got was also not dry at all.

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Tatte Bakery – 70 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114. Mon to Fri 7am-8pm, Sat 8am-8pm, Sun 8am-7pm. Several outlets.

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Visiting Boston during the wintry days was not exactly the best option but one of the very few options for me. Managed to see a few other places as well – Brattle Book Shop, Boston Public Library, Boston Commons, Harvard Square, Boston Public Market, Boston Public Garden – but the frigid and rainy weather made it hard for photographs. Loved the old American charms of the city though.

6 Hipster Cafes to Visit in KL

This is a very long, overdue post containing beautiful remnants of my maiden trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia featuring most of the places I visited. I’ve always had an eye for places displaying minimalism designs, but as I was exposed to the old charms of KL cafes this time, I grew to them.

1. Fancy Breakfast Club

fancybreakfastclub3Located on the second floor along a row of shophouses in the hippy Bangsar Baru area, Fancy Breakfast Club first impressed me with its clean, communal dining design. It felt like it was out of an American thanksgiving dinner/bridal shower, especially with the flower and plant arrangements on each table.

fancybreakfastclub15fancybreakfastclub8Food presentation is pretty on point here, but I wished they also paid the same amount attention to taste.

fancybreakfastclub4For mains, we had the Breakfast Board (RM30, SGD10) which requires you to pick a minimum of 5 items priced at RM6 each and the Turkey Ham & Cheddar Cheese Waffle (RM18, SGD6) with honey mustard sauce and pickles.

fancybreakfastclub12The French Toast Bread Pudding (RM27) we ordered for dessert looked and sounded promising but the overly wet sourdough toast made it impossible to finish it.

fancybreakfastclub7Note: Be sure to do some “homework” before deciding on your order!

Read the full post on DanielFoodDiary.

Address: 6-1 Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Opening hours: Tues to Sun 9am – 4pm (kitchen closes at 3pm)

Tel: +60 03-2202 2020

2. One Half x ilaika

onehalfxilaika3A collaboration between a multilabel retail store (Ilaika) selling local designer clothing and accessories and a cafe (One Half) specialising in coffee – hence the name One Half x ilaika.

onehalfxilaika5onehalfxilaika2We found the coffee counter at the back of the store in a cutesy corner, ordered our coffee, and had it at the prominent outdoor area at the entrance.

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Note: Only coffee and small bakes here!

AddressL No.17, Jalan 20/13, 46300 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

Opening hours: 10am – 7pm daily

Tel: +60 14-333 4521

3. Botakliquor Bar

botaklquor6You might just go past this bar without knowing it. Botakliquor Bar is the sister bar of cafe Chocha Foodstore, situated on the second floor of Chocha Foodstore, up the ancient-looking, spiral stairs that seemingly came out of a fairytale.

botakliquor1Though I was very tempted to get food from Chocha Foodstore (heard good reviews about them), I was way too stuffed, so we settled for some cocktails upstairs while the sun was still up. botaklquor7We shared two cocktails – the Sweet Peas x Elderflower (RM48) – unaged whiskey, sweet peas, organic elderflower cordial, lemon – and the Bunga Kantan x Pumpkin (RM36) – pumpkinseed infused vodka, calamansi, homemade red ginger lily soda. I preferred the former for its flowery and sweet tones.

botaklquor8Note: Cocktails can be brought down from Botakliquor Bar to Chocha Foodstore but food cannot be brought up from Chocha to the bar!

Address: 156, Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tel: +60 3-2022 1100

Opening hours: Tues to Sat 4.30pm – 1am, Sun 2pm – 11pm

4. VCR

VCR2I thought I was transported to Melbourne as I went into the first floor of VCR. The tall brick walls, wooden paneled floor and dimly lit setting did exude some grunge-y industrial Melbournian cafe vibes.

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We went to the second floor for more natural light and got a nice view of nature through the floor-to-ceiling glass panels.

VCR5VCR3Thankfully, the food and coffee here was one of the better ones amongst the cafes I went to in KL. I tried the Soft Shell Crab Burger (RM26) which a server recommended to me – deep fry soft shell crab, onion jam, quick pickle kyuri, housemade tartar sauce, furikake sunny side up and the French Toast (RM19) – espresso no churn ice cream (loved this!), crumbles, fluffy brioche French toast, raspberry compote, mocha sauce.

VCR1Note: They do filter coffee here too!

Address: 2, Jalan Galloway, Bukit Bintang, 50150 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Opening hours: 8.30am – 11pm daily

Tel: +60 3-2110 2330

5. Kopenhagen Coffee

kopenhagencoffee10Having arrived just a few minutes after 9am on a Sunday, we were surprised to find that there were already people ahead of us.

kopenhagencoffee6The spacious interiors are reminiscent of Scandinavian interior designs (white-washed walls, white wooden floorboards, brown wooden chairs and tables) mixed with raw designs (concrete flooring, concrete coffee counter top).
My cafe-hopping buddies had the the Emperor’s New Clothes (RM24) that came with a croissant, creamy scrambled eggs with tomatoes & kale salad with almonds and fresh apple slices and the Bagel with Cream Cheese (RM12) served with cream cheese & tomatoes with spring onions and Though the bagels can’t compare to those from my favorite bagel house in Singapore, they were pretty decent.

kopenhagencoffee4kopenhagencoffee5I had the Versatile Viking (RM18) – banana slices drizzled with honey served on homemade rye bread & a side of Greek yoghurt, granola & berries – which I felt wasn’t so memorable.

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Note: Go early (especially on a weekend) for better seats. Also.. free wifi here!

Address: Vista Kiara, 3, Jalan Kiara, Mont Kiara, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Opening hours: Mon to Fri 7am – 7pm, Sat & Sun 9am – 7pm

Tel:  +60 3-6211 6363

6. Isabel Restaurant & Bar

isabel4Thanks to a Malaysian friend, we managed to book a table at this relatively new restaurant in Central KL for Sunday brunch. Though a slightly pricier and fancier option for brunch in KL, our lazy, 3 hour brunch here was well worth the money.

isabel10isabel1The restaurant screams of classy interior goals, BTW. I also reckon many girls would fancy the pink wall and marble tables at the outdoor area.

isabel6The Duck Noodle Soup (RM38), served with a refreshing, tangy pomelo & starfruit salad on the side, was comforting after all the usual brunch fare I had during my trip.  The duck leg braised in star anise & cinnamon was almost fall-off-the-bone tender, while the flat rice noodles were reminiscent of an authentic bowl of pho. I wished the portion could be greater though.

isabel9To end, we had the Valrhona Chocolate Cake with Buttercream (RM17) which was pretty decent but it couldn’t top the best chocolate cakes I’ve had.

isabel5isabel7Note: Make a reservation especially if you plan to go on a weekend!

Address: 21, Jalan Mesui, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Opening hours: Tues to Fri 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 12am, Sat 12pm – 12am, Sun 12pm – 11pm

Tel: +60 3-2110 6366

[Johor Bahru] Openwork

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A few posts back I mentioned that I started visiting the cafes in JB, and Openwork is yet another one (like People and Places) I went to that is slightly off the commonly-trekked-by-Singaporeans path. Apparently, the café is accessible via foot (about 10-15 minutes) from Komtar/JB Sentral/City Square, but we decided to take a Grab instead. The location may also be a little tricky for the driver to find so it would help to go on Google maps/Maps and help out. Check out Openwork’s Facebook page for videos guiding you to their space, they are really helpful!

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The café was slightly warm whilst we were there, but I wasn’t complaining since we went on a weekday while the café was still quite new and thus we had the whole space to ourselves. What’s more, the minimally styled café – plain white walls, wooden and marble tables, natural sunlight casting shadows… – was simply soothing and pleasant.

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Just as minimal as the space is the menu. Though the drinks selection comprising coffee, tea and some interesting choices is quite extensive, the food selection is kept simple. Featuring just 3 rice bowls and some sides, it is possible to get a taste of everything with some company.

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To begin, I had the Matcha Latte (RM12) which came with a pretty latte art. The bitter tones of matcha were distinct, while coming through with just a tad of sweetness. It was definitely comparable to the one I had at People and Places.

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I was skeptical that the Xiaoming’s Gyoza (RM12 for 5 pieces) would be reminiscent of supermarket-bought-and-fried-at-home gyoza, but they were pretty decent. The meat inside remained juicy, while the skin was soft. There is also a spicy option for their gyoza at RM14.

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We tried 2 of the 3 rice bowls on the menu – the Chicken Bowl (RM17) and Suyuk Bowl (RM19). Since the menu didn’t mention the ingredients of the rice bowls, we were pleasantly surprised to find yuzu-flavoured rice when we dug in. The yuzu came across as a slight tinge of zest and gave the rice an interesting fragrance. The fried chicken can come across as dry if eaten alone with rice, so the accompaniment with a sous vide egg did help a lot. Same goes for the siuyuk bowl, which came with a sweet apple sauce to dip the siuyuk in. Do note that the portions of the rice bowls are rather small and you will probably have space for sides, desserts or even more café hopping.

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When I was there, the only dessert available was a Black Sesame Cake with vanilla cream and meringue. Unfortunately, it was a tad dry and I had to eat it with the dollop of vanilla cream on the side since it was left on the counter for some time and then heated up before serving it to me. But on the bright side, the black sesame was distinct.

Anyway, I recently got word that waffles with ice cream are available on their menu now! Their flavours include Peanut sauce and Chocolate bar (RM23), Apple and Chrysanthemum and Mint sauce (RM23) and Mixed Berries Compote (RM23). Hopefully they’ll taste as good as they look on social media.

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Until my next JB trip!

Openwork

236, Jalan Tun Abdul Razak 1/1, Wadi Hana, 80300 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia

Opens 9am – 11.30pm daily

Tel: +60 10-226 0311

Pince & Pints – New Outlet at Katong!

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Pince & Pints has always been on my bucket list since the opening of the very first outlet at Duxton Hill, but somehow I managed to keep it on that list while waiting for that special occasion which never came. And so when the press release about their newest, third outlet (already?!) was sent to my mail, I thought, OK, it has to be now. My virgin Pince & Pints experience.

This third Pince & Pints is also in a 2-storey shop house but in the food district of the East – Katong. Compared to the first storey, the second storey is way less cramped and is a space that fits all – young couples, a big family reunion, chill nights with your girlfriends.

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After a whole lot of deliberating on what sides to get, we were recommended the Mixed Platter (SGD32) which came with a bit of everything. Or rather, not just a bit but a good portion of everything i.e. crispy fish skin, fried calamari, garlic butter mussels, straight-cut fries, chargrilled bread and tartar sauce. This will be good for sharing among 3 or more!

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Our main star of the night was the Live Whole Lobster (SGD58), served with Chef’s salad, straight-cut fries and butter sauce, for which you can choose to have it grilled or steamed. Fun fact: Did you know that the lobsters served here are air-flown every week from the Atlantic Coast and stored in Pince & Pints very own sea tanks? And so the lobster turned out as fresh, plump and juicy just as I expected. Surprisingly, the butter sauce was light enough to not mask the fresh seafood flavour of the lobster when poured over directly.

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Since we had the Live Whole Lobster, I thought of trying The Truffle Roll (SGD68) instead of the original Lobster Roll. Unlike the original, this lobster roll is topped with additional gems of shaved truffle and truffle caviar, and served with truffle butter sauce. Was that too much truffle for me? Definitely not. Instead of overpowering the entire dish, it was more like a harmonious accompaniment to the lobster roll.

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Not gonna lie, we did spend a significant amount of time shooting the food that I thought we’d be having cold food. But the Lobster Mac & Cheese (SGD29) remained warm in its pan. The molten mozzarella cheese also remained gooey and stretchy, enwrapping the mixture of elbow pasta tossed with (a not too shabby amount of) chunks of lobster meat. Needless to say, we polished the bowl clean.

Two new items will also be launched – what a pity that they weren’t available when I went before the grand opening. Watch out for The Lobster Burger (SGD42) which features a deep fried lobster patty seasoned and breaded with spices and The Lobster Noodles (SGD58) – think Chinese style stir fried egg noodles topped with lobster and served with sambal chili. The latter sounds like a perfect dish for families.

Thanks Pince & Pints and Protegie Group for the kind invitation!

Pince & Pints Restaurant and Bar

95 East Coast Road, Singapore 428793

Tel: +65 6386 3988

Opening hours: Mon to Fri 12pm – 2.30pm, 5.30pm – 11pm

Sat to Sun 11am – 11pm

House of AnLi

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Stepping into the gorgeous interiors of this bistro hidden behind a luxurious furniture store had seemed to transport me into a café in Australia. The large windows from which sunlight was flowing in, high ceilings, wooden communal tables, fresh bread displays, and western diners say it all. I was immediately reminded of the vibes from Luxe, yet another restaurant-café taking its origins from Sydney, and also one of my favorite hangs in Singapore.

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I took a while to take it all in before focusing on the menu proper. A glance sweeping through it informed me that the brunch courses here do not come necessarily with comfort prices, with the average dish costing around $25 without GST and service charge.

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If you’re not tired of having eggs for brunch yet, get the NZ Organic Scrambled Eggs served on Sourdough Toast ($9), to which I added Smoked Salmon (+$8) and Greek Feta Cheese (+$6). The eggs were truly reminiscent of the ones I had in Melbourne, almost making me forget that my dish costed $23 after the add-ons, and did not come in a portion as big as I imagined it to be. I hate being a boring person, but I ended up ordering the scrambled eggs again on my second visit here. The smoked salmon was just decent enough though, and other add-ons like mushrooms are also available.

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Meanwhile, From The Farm ($24) owes the praises I had for it to its main highlight – the lamb tenderloin. The lamb meat proved to be very tender and not overly chewy – done to the right consistency.

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One of my friends decided to pick what seemed like a less safe option (the rest of us ordered eggs on toast with add-ons), the Maria’s Moussaka ($28) – and it was such a great choice in the end. This was like a lasagna – except that the flat sheets of pasta are replaced by layered eggplant and accompanied with potato, minced beef and béchamel.

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Desserts, however, were the weak points here. Or at least that was what we gathered from the ones we tried.  The Apple Tart Canelle ($10) looked and sounded promising but lacked the distinct, natural sweetness that we were looking forward to from an apple tart. In the end, I poured an additional order of a scoop of Caramel Salted Butter Ice cream ($4) over to save it. On hindsight, we enjoyed that scoop of ice cream for its creaminess and well-balanced sweet and salty flavours.

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The Tarte Fromage Blanc ($12) – a baked cheese tart – was also ordinarily plain, the cheese being neither sweet nor savoury. Perhaps we should have opted for the recommended Merveilleux Tropical ($12)? The more acceptable dessert I tried was the Belgian Waffles ($8), which had a light, airy crisp to it. Pairing it with either their selection of ice cream here or with maple syrup alone are both good options.

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Despite the less than satisfying desserts and not-cheap prices for brunch, I see myself coming back here, perhaps alone with a book. The eggs, mains and of course that setting makes it such a comforting hideout.

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House of AnLi

163 Tanglin Road, #03-17, Tanglin Mall, Singapore 247933

Tel: +65 6235 3851

Opens 9am – 9pm daily

 

 

Boca Restaurant

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Fancy a hearty, Portuguese feast in Singapore? Boca Restaurant is possibly the only restaurant serving up authentic, Portuguese cuisine up till date. It also dawned on me that I haven’t had Portuguese food (excluding Portuguese egg tarts) prior to visiting Boca. Though not new to the culinary scene, the restaurant recently relocated to the Ann Siang Hill enclave this year with changes their menu.

The three-storey high restaurant seemed suitable for all occasions – a late night tavern for drinks and food with friends on the first floor, a laid-back family corner for weekend brunch on the second, and a private party at the attic on the third floor.

Since we went on a lazy Saturday, it felt most appropriate to perch ourselves comfortably on the sofa seats on the second floor, where tables are partitioned from one another.

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We started our meal with two trays of Croquettes – the round ones are deep fried meat balls stuffed with iberico pork cheek, while the odd-shaped croquettes, or “Pasteis de Bacalhau” were actually deep fried cod fritters. Though a tad on the dry side, these are great to munch on.

We also had the “Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato”, which is a steamed pot of clams in white wine sauce, lemon and coriander.

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The Mixed Seafood Rice Stew, or “Arroz marisco”, was a medley of seafood – scallops, prawns, and clams atop a bed of seafood rice. This was like Spanish seafood paella, except that the sauces were not as heavy on the palate.

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Truth be told, I don’t eat octopus usually (just me being a fussy eater and picking on food that is too chewy/rubbery to my liking). But the “Polvo a lagareiro” – comprising Octopus, Garlic, Olive Oil, Potatoes & Baby Spinach was an octopus dish in which I had nothing to pick on. The octopus was cooked till tender, and the accompaniments were great on their own too.

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Due to my fussiness yet again, I skipped the Grilled Prawns with Lemon Sauce but my friends thought they were pretty good.

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We were pretty stuffed after that heavy yet satisfying round of meats and seafood, but it would feel so incomplete if we left without trying their signature “Pastel de nata” or Authentic Portuguese Egg Tart . It seemed as though a second stomach opened up when the warm egg tarts came freshly out of the oven, served on oriental blue tiles in front of us. I’m not kidding when I say, that these are hands down the best egg tarts I’ve had, though the prices are not cheap. The crust had a very good crisp and being dusted with cinnamon and sugar, came with a tinge of sweetness to it. All these while the inside remained gooey, warm and molten. Delicioso.

Thanks Boca Restaurant for the kind invitation.

Boca Restaurant

8 Ann Siang Hill, Singapore 069788

Tel: +65 6221 0132

Daily 11am – 2am (Lunch from 12pm, last order 2pm)

(Dinner from 6pm, last order 9.30pm)

[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

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