Sunday, July 27, 2008

12 x 12

It's been almost 2 weeks since the last post. What have I been up to? Well intensive Minor E. modules aside, I was under the weather for a week. I seldom fall ill but when I do, it always seems to be more than the slight fever. And I know I'm getting better when my appetite starts to gear up to normal.

It is after stressful weeks of Minor E. modules, lack of sleep and a bout of upper respiratory tract infection that a place like 12x12 Cafe seems to have special appeal. A rather cool and bold concept, this cafe prides itself on the following:
- fresh premium ingredients
- no frying or deep frying (only bake, boil or steam)
- gluten free
- no butter
- fresh garnish
- handmade daily
- vegan or vegetarian options
- nut free options
- biodegradable bowls and plates made of agrofibre

Before you think it's an old boring health nut kinda place, it's not. It serves soups, salads, sandwiches, dips, Fitballs (I shall come to this in a bit), cakes and drinks. Looks decently healthy alright. But at least they don't taste like bland cardboard.

The White Bean Cappuccino ($8.50) I tried was perfumed with the scent of truffle oil. The soup was neither too thick nor too runny and had tasty thin slices of duck meat which interestingly resembled the Chinese-styled roast duck. The beany goodness of white beans was evident though no beans were found as they had been blended into the soup. Accompanying the soup on the side were sheets of crisp (tapioca?) crackers and a slice of baguette.

Fitballs (any choice of 3 for $5)are basically rice and other ingredients shaped into a ball. They purportedly contain a balanced food equation and give round the clock energy. I opted for three different flavours- Chorizo, Italian and Salmon & Asparagus (anti-clockwise from the Fitball on the right in the above picture).

The Italian was made with wild rice, undried tomato (this one's funny), mozzarella, anchovies, capers and fresh basil. Not bad but was expecting more fresh flavours from the tomato and basil. The Salmon & Asparagus was a tad fishy due probably to the smoked salmon but cats fish fanatics would smile. There's healthy omega fatty acids man.

But my favourite would have to be the Chorizo. Flavourful with bits of the Spanish sausage embedded within the brown rice, it was delicious. It would be perfect if they could add a more smokey dimension to this.

12x12 Cafe has an interesting concept with wholesome food that makes one feel almost healthier. The set-up is modern with a raw edgy vibe. Check out the old ammunition boxes that lie around....hmm...I think it could indicate that the people behind Barracks at Dempsey are backing this place.

12x12 Cafe
Suntec City Galleria (beside Convention Centre)
Tel: 6333 9774

Chew On This: 12 x 12 (say twelve by twelve) reflects their believe that their food is ideal for anytime of the day, be it twelve noon or twelve midnight (but no, they don't open till midnight).

Monday, July 14, 2008

Outstanding in Geylang

Most foodies will by now be familiar with Ya Kwang. The cow, though having four legs, only came to try it recently (thanks to Winelearner) and was wowed by this Geylang kopitiam (coffee shop).

Ya Kwang is owned and ran by Jason (pictured above) and his wife. Don't let the kopitiam frontage fool you. Ya Kwang offers gems that are daring, unauthentic and novel for a kopitiam.

The Lobster Noodles ($70) featured a 700g Boston lobster! The handmade noodles were springy with a good, firm bite. Though a tad floury in taste, they were beautifully coated with a gravy that oozed delicate crustacean flavour. Unlike stronger lobster flavours like those in lobster bisque, this dish had lighter yet tasty flavours. In addition, the lobster flesh was succulent and cooked with good timing. Do take note that this dish has to be ordered in advance!

Another unusual item at a kopitiam was the Kurobuta Shabu Shabu ($38). The almost bacon-looking pork slices may appear fatty but thankfully didn't leave a greasy trail upon swallowing. Instead, the fat marbling added a perfumed touch once masticated. This was one 'unporky' pig. People who are adverse to the unpleasant porky taste sometimes associated with the meat should try this one. Just remember that a few seconds dip into the boiling pot will do. Any longer and it'll start to get tougher.

The stock was packed with savouriness and was relatively sweet. I enjoyed the chockfull of assorted vegetables that became tender and sweet after a while in the pot. The best part of the pot? Undoubtedly, the Korean tang hoon (vermicelli) that was QQ and had soaked up all the goodness of the stock!

Accompanying the slices of meat was a ponzu dip. The soy-citrus and mirin-like flavour went well with the kurobuta, not that the meat really required any extra seasoning though. I would advise you to try without the dip first and only use the dip later to add flavour variety.

Unlike the delicate flavour of the Kurobuta, the (ordinary) beef had a very strong beefy-iron-y taste which may put some people off. Perhaps Waygu would be more interesting but otherwise, I reckon the Kurobuta's a better bet.

For a kopitiam version of pasta Vongole, try the Clam Ban Mian ($10)! The flower clams used in this dish were nicely firm and sweet. However, a little grit in some of them could be forgiven. It was after all a kopitiam no? The noodles were not really Ban Mian but were narrower and more like You Mian, exactly like the one used in the Lobster Noodles and again, they were pleasantly al dente. The slightly bitter 'broth' that flavoured the noodles were like a clam stock with accents of coriander and a fiery kick from chili padi. This is one interesting dish!

Ya Kwang is truly a gem in Geylang and an oustanding kopitiam. It has novel dishes, good quality food and friendly prices plus a non-pushy/aggressive (in the sales sense) boss!

Ya Kwang
709 Geylang Road
Lorong 37
Opens: 11am-11pm daily
Tel: 9817 0006 (Jason)

Chew On This: Come here quickly while you still can! That's about as much as I'm gonna say.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Botak Chef

I've always viewed social entrepreneurship with keen interest. Nothing beats having a business with a social cause. Charities are different. While they serve society, charities are largely dependent on public, corporate and government donations/fundraising to finance their operations. A social enterprise is more sustainable, applying business elements to an idea to bring about a social change or push through a social cause.

Eighteen Chefs at Eastpoint, like Food For Thought, does just that. The head chef-owner, Benny Se Teo, was formerly a druggie (not the Panadol kind) who now strives to provide youth-at-risks and ex-delinquents with an environment that is non-bias against their past backgrounds, equipping them with a new set of skills to better support themselves and stay away from crime.

Kudos to the man and his vision! It was this vision that took Benny to Jamie Oliver's (aka The Naked Chef) restaurant, Fifteen, for a two month stint. It was the non-profit Fifteen that inspired Benny to set-up Eighteen Chefs, with a similar social cause. Till now, Benny remains the only Singaporean to have trained at Fifteen. C-O-O-L

Once at Eighteen Chefs, choose a table and do seat yourself. There is no service charge anyway. Browse through the menu and order by way of an order chit, which you should bring to the cashier for payment. The food will be served to you shortly.

The Eighteen Funky Salad ($6.90)was not bad but certainly not what I could term funky. The salad comprised fresh crunchy strips of iceberg lettuce, a few strips of capsicum, rings of onion, a tomato slice and about four shrimps all dressed in fragrant olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple and no-frills. What I would have preferred is for the lettuce to be sliced into bite-sized pieces instead of strips for easier eating. The shrimps would have also benefited from a longer time on the griddle.

Famed for their cheese baked rice, I opted for Beef Slices and a Tangy Tomato Sauce version ($8.90). The rice was nicely firm and the sufficient cheese made for good eating without the cloying feel. The thin beef slices were generous but lacked oomph. The tomato sauce was a tad insipid for my taste although there was a strong Italian mixed herb backbone.

By the way, there are many offerings of sauces (Creamy Mango, Spicy Garlic, Curry etc) and main ingredients (Seafood, Chicken Sausage, Mushrooms etc) from which to choose from for your cheese baked rice. Have fun exploring!

For those who like their breakfast anytime of the day, the all-day-breakfast at Eighteen Chefs would make them smile. The EggsChipsBeansDogs ($5.50) was a happy brekkie sight of scrambled eggs, chicken hot dogs, baked beans and crinkle-cut fries. Now to just get some toast...

Wash everything down with a cup of Cappuccino ($2.50). Perk-me-up anybody?

Eighteen Chefs offers breezy alfresco seating and also an air-conditioned interior seating area which exudes youthful energy. With decently-priced food and a good feeling from knowing that your patronage has helped to train and keep youth-at-risks and ex-delinquents off the troubled path, Eighteen Chefs certainly is a place to support. My cheese baked rice with beef slices and tangy tomato sauce may not have been the best combination but I'm game to return to try another.

Eighteen Chefs
Eastpoint Mall
(Beside POSB)
Tel: 6782 1298
Opens: 12noon-9.30pm on Sundays to Thursdays (last order at 9pm)
: 12noon-10.30pm on Fridays & Saturdays (last order at 10pm)

Chew On This: Student meals are available at $5.90 and that gets you a Chicken Sausage Pasta/Rice, iced lemon tea and a scoop of ice cream! I think nurses also qualify for this promotion. That explains the flock of students and nurses here during lunch time. =)