Open Farm Community

I've been looking to revisit Open Farm Community, ever since my delicious but uncomfortable dinner a year ago. This time round, I made reservations early, so we wouldn't have to sit at the bar, and brought the Hubs and MJ along. MJ was just coming off a juice cleanse, and I thought Open Farm Community, or 'OFC' for short, would be a terrific place to reintroduce him to a diet of solid foods.

The restaurant's still buzzy, drawing a full-house most days; in no small part due to the rotating menu:- the menu refreshes every now and then, to highlight the season's best, but popular dishes remain mainstays. 

The Warm Broccoli Salad ($20) was a medley of mesclun, sauteed sugar snap peas, roasted broccoli, crumbed feta, and pinenuts. Beautiful textures, clean, and light. I'm now inspired to make something like this at home.

I loved the soft peppery notes of the Watercress Soup ($19), complemented by a softly poached organic egg and crispy kale, and sided by pita to mop up every last drop.

A signature of OFC, the Crispy Jurong Frogs' Legs ($26), battered and fried, was succulent and tender. The legs were dunked into a red curry dip, rich with root vegetables and coconut milk, and topped with fried curry leaves for added aroma. I'm not a big fan of frogs' legs, but this was superb.

A must-try, the Saffron Carnaroli Risotto ($30) flecked with chorizo, cuttlefish, green peas, Serrano ham, and a ebi cracker, was sumptuous but balanced. So so soooo good!!

The only lackluster dish, the Roasted Red Snapper ($32) was overdone. That being said, I liked the refreshing piquancy lent by the calamansi & sesame cucumber salad, beetroot pickled cucumber, floral elements of the garden roselle & hibiscus ketchup, and nuance of the blackened barley.

Another must-try, the Red Grouper Burger ($30) layered chunky tar tar sauce, pickled cucumbers, local greens between squid ink sesame seed buns. A most excellent fish burger. We were all trying to avoid carbs, but the skinny fries were so scrumptious we finished it anyway.

We also ordered a couple of sides to supplement the mains; the Yoghurt & Southern Wood Dressed Cauliflower ($17) spiked with cumin, dill, and spiced pan crystals, was an exercise in restrain of flavours.

The Smoked Paprika Buttered Sweet Corn ($17) finished with chimichurri and sprinkled with salted caramel popcorn, was juicy and sweet. A must try as well.

Open Farm Community
130E Minden Road
Tel: 6474 5964
Open weekdays from 12noon to 10pm;
weekends from 11am to 10pm
Website: www.openfarmcommunity.com


SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar

It's been a while since we last brunched. I'm usually asleep till mid-afternoon most weekends, so I don't wake up early enough for brunch. But, because we had friends to meet up with, I made the extra effort to get up before noon. Okay, okayyyyy...the Hubs had to push me off the bed before I would rouse...but...same thing, no?

We headed to SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar, an offshoot of the CBD-favourite SPRMRKT. Located next to the Singapore River, the first level of the bistro, SPRMRKT Daily, is breezy and laid-back, whereas the second level restaurant is a little more swish. There wasn't any availability in the extremely contrained air-conditioned indoor area of SPRMRKT Daily on the first floor, so we opted to dine on the second level instead. The brunch selection on level 2 is decidedly limited, as their focus is on dinner, but what they lacked in variety, they made up in quality.

A twist on kong bak baos, the D Pork Buns ($25) sandwiched hunks of roasted pork belly and poached eggs, between halved fluffy buns. The mild spice and creaminess of the paprika hollandaise brought the ensemble together.

The Huevos Tostados ($26) layered sumptuous slices of flank steak, shredded lettuce, poached eggs, and corn tortillas, with a generous slather of curried hollandaise.

The hipster-sounding #OmeletteDuFromage ($19), studded with chorizo and feta was, thankfully, a lot less pretentious than expected. A side of vinaigrette-dressed arugula salad lent a peppery kick.

A must-try, the Savoury French Toast ($23) was more crepe than bread. Flecked with ground pork and seasoned with worcestershire sauce, the beautifully charred crepe was topped with tomato salsa, fresh avocado, and arugula leaves.

A must-try side dish, the Brussels Sprouts ($10), roasted to a fragrant nutty crisp, was finished with a slick of sambal mayo.

SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar @ Level 2
41 Robertson Quay
Tel: 9736 4170
Open Tuesdays to Fridays from 6pm to 10pm for lunch;
Saturdays from 9am to 4pm for lunch; 6pm to 10pm for dinner;
Sundays from 9am to 6pm;
Closed on Mondays
Website: www.sprmrkt.com.sg


Kazu Sumiyaki Restaurant

The last time I was at yakitori specialist Kazu was when I was a broke-ass student living off the charity of my older and very generous already-working friends. That was more than a decade ago. Since then, Kazu has grown, from a tiny, cramped, and smoky little joint, to a spiffier, slightly less cramped, and much less smoky premises. It's still wildly popular, and so reservations are absolutely necessary.

The menu, an extensive variety of grilled foods, mostly skewered, also offers a smattering of sashimi/sushi plates and rice/noodle options. I say, you can't go wrong sticking to the grilled stuff, it's what Kazu's famous for anyway. Budget about $100 per person if not filling up on carbs and without alcohol, as the skewers are modest in size and quickly add up to a lot.

Service was a mixed bag of 3 distinct cliques: the Filipinos, who were friendly as heck; the pretty, heavily made-up Japanese front-of-house, hospitable and smiley, and obviously positioned to make the Japanese expats feel at home; and then there's the Chinese locals, surly sourpusses who incoherently muttered the names of the dishes as they plopped them down on our table. If there ever was a reason why foreign labour is sometimes more sought after over our locals, this was it. That said, the kitchen was incredibly efficient: dishes arrived in well-timed succession, and it was barely 5 minutes after our orders were taken that the first dish arrived.

A signature for good reason, the Okonomiyaki ($3 per pc), 'Kazu Pancake Ball', a chunkily textured blend of vegetables and minced pork, was dripping with juiciness.

A staple, the Ji Momo ($4 per pc) 'chicken thigh' was succulent and well-marinated.

I love love LOVE bacon, and Kazu swaddles just about every food in bacon, so I ordered just about every item on that section of the menu. Like the Issebi Bacon ($6 per pc) 'lobster bacon roll' with leek.

Another seafood roll, the Hotate Ebi Bacon ($6 per pc), bacon-wrapped scallop and prawn with leek was perfectly cooked.

The Avocado Buta Maki ($2.50) bacon wrapped avocado roll was a fine example of how some foods pair beautifully together. The buttery nuttiness of mashed avocado and salty smokiness of the bacon was just lovely. 

Another superb pairing, the Minced Chicken and Cheese Zucchini Roll ($3 per pc)

A classic, the Aspara Buta Maki ($5 per pc) 'asparagus pork belly roll'.

The artery-clogging Kawa ($3 per pc) 'chicken skin', simply seasoned with salt, was grilled to a tantalizing crunch. A consolation to any ensuing guilt: it wasn't dripping in oil at all.

The Hubs loves lady's finger and the Okura Buta Maki ($3.50 per pc) 'lady's finger bacon roll' was doubly awesome.

A must-try staple, the Tsukune ($3 per pc) 'minced chicken ball' was wonderfully textured and juicy.

I love shishito, and the mild kick of the Japanese pepper in the Shishito Buta Maki ($3.50 per pc) 'green pepper bacon roll' was nicely contrasted against the salty bacon.

LOVE the Uzura ($2 per pc) 'quails' eggs' which were subtly marinated and perfectly cooked.

The Mini Wagyu Hambug Burger ($8 per pc) was just melt-in-your mouth. Soooooo good!!

A fail-safe option, the Enoki ($3.50 per pc) 'bacon enoki mushroom roll' was fantastic as well.

An excellent must-try, the Buta Ringo ($4.50 per pc) 'pork belly and apple skewer' was a brilliant combo. Like peas and carrots, pork and apple just match so well together.

We scored the last stick of Gyu Cheese ($5 per pc) 'beef and cheese roll', ozzy and glorious and meltingly good.

The Wagyu Enoki ($5 per pc) 'wagyu beef and enoki mushroom roll' was yummy too.

Although touted as a signature, I didn't think much of the Gura ($8 per pc) 'foie gras'. It may be value-for-money, at such price point, but on its own, I've had way better foie gras. This was meatier, stodgier, and tasted too much like pork liver that I'd like.

Smoky and juicy, the Tenkeiko Shitake ($18) 'shitake mushrooms' was grilled simply, and served with pink salt and spiced ponzu for flavour.

Kazu Sumi-Yaki Restaurant
No. 5 Koek Road
Cuppage Plaza #04-05
Tel: 6734 2492
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 6pm to 10pm; Closed on Mondays


Ding Dong

When I first heard of Ding Dong, I immediately thought of the iconic quote from 'The Wizard of Oz': "ding dong the witch is dead"...remember?? It's the munchkin song!! I thought that was very cute. And just like its cheeky and catchy moniker, the food at Ding Dong was just as memorable.

A modern fusion tapas joint under the Spa Esprit brand, Ding Dong is refreshingly innovative. Dishes here are unique, and I like its contemporary spin on familiar Southeast Asian flavours.

Save for the glitch of an inordinate lapse between the small plates and mains, service was personable and knowledgeable. The staff was able to relay which dishes contained parsley/cilantro/coriander leaves, without having to check with the kitchen, and proferred worthwhile suggestions.

A cold starter, the Hamachi Sashimi ($18), dotted with a mild chilli relish, a slice of green mango, and set atop a betel leaf for wrapping, was crisp, clean, and fresh.

The Spicy Beef Salad ($19), strewn with bittermelon and asparagus shavings, sweet corn, fried shallots, crushed nuts, chilli strips, and tossed in a tamarind dressing, was a lovely balance of the tart, spicy, and bitter.

The Thai Basil Quail ($19), burnished with a hoisin glaze and sprinkled with crispy garlic and sesame seeds, was tender and luscious, with nary a whiff of game.

A must-try, the Carbon-Battered Prawn Tempura ($16), subtly flavoured with a red curry marinade, and sided by a soy wasabi mayonnaise dip, was wonderfully crunchy and addictively delicious.

Taking notes from Thai 'kaeng phed ped yang' and French duck confit, the Crispy Duck Curry ($27) with cauliflower and passionfruit, was robust, rustic, and fall-off-the-bone delicious.

The Spiced Braised Iberico Pork ($26) centered upon a soft poached egg, and topped with a lime & jackfruit tempura, was mellow, nuanced, and well-rounded.

The Char-Grilled Ocean Trout ($24) riotous with spiced quinoa, fried shallots, and a chilli-spiked oyster sauce, was contrasted with a refreshingly piquant green mango salad.

Ding Dong
115 Amoy Street
Tel: 6557 0189
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 12midnight for dinner
Website: www.dingdong.com.sg


Ye Shang Hai Teochew Porridge

There are very few things I can stomach whenever I'm sick and feeling crummy: porridge ranks top of the short list. There's something about drinking rice that's just so comforting and fortifying.

So, I was recently down with an especially virulent flu, and craving Teochew porridge in the middle of the night. With a hacking cough and difficulty breathing when lying down, I couldn't sleep anyway. My favourite Joo Chiat stall was a little too far away, so a friend told me about Ye Shang Hai Teochew Porridge, a late-night joint that's on the fringes of town, and crazy popular with taxi drivers.

Turns out I've passed by this coffeeshop many times, our favourite Hainanese curry rice hawker is just at the coffeeshop round the corner. For some reason, we just never ate here.

At just over $20 for 9 dishes, Ye Shang Hai Teochew Porridge is incredibly wallet friendly. I don't think it's as fresh as Teck Teochew Porridge, but it's probably a more worthwhile option this side of the island that's open this late. And, I found the homecooked familiarity of the dishes here wonderfully appealing.

Fresh off the wok, the minced pork stewed with black bean and ginger was punchy, but I could have done without the sharp bite of the ginger strips.

The candied pork was surprisingly tender, and not rock-hard; the smoky char of the stickily sugared glaze was quite addictive.

Though pedestrian, the curry chicken was rich and fiery.

Ditto for the oyster sauce chicken, it was oily but succulent and homestyled.

The otah, a homogeneous blend of spicy fish paste, passed muster.

The omelette, studded with chilli and minced pork, was decent.

I liked the braised egg, it had a delicate flavour and wasn't boiled to oblivion.

A must-order whenever eating Teochew porridge, the salted egg was standard ok fare.

The sauteed spinach with ikan bilis was nuanced and delicate.

Ye Shang Hai Teochew Porridge
Blk 116 Bukit Merah View
#01-217 Boyang Coffee Shop
Open Wednesdays to Mondays from 10.30am to 5am; Closed on Tuesdays
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