[POP-UP] MINIONS CAFE @ THE Guest cafe&diner Singapore

Bello everyone!

After two runs of the immensely popular Pokémon Café at EwF Bugis Junction in 2015 and 2016, PARCO (Singapore) returns with another pop-up café concept and this time, it revolves around the adorably small, yellow, cylindrical critters of the Despicable Me series – the Minions!

For a limited time, the first pop-up MINIONS CAFÉ outside Japan will operate from 23rd November 2017 to 31st January 2018 on the third floor of Orchard Central. Rebranded from “The Despicable Me 3 Cafe” in Japan at five THE GUEST cafe&diner outlets located in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo and Fukuoka during July and September this year, the Singapore edition brings in 14 original food and beverage items on the menu – all of which are specially conceptualised and developed by THE GUEST cafe&diner for the MINIONS CAFÉ.

MINIONS CAFÉ

MINIONS CAFÉ

Waitstaff are donned in Minion-inspired attire so it's very easy to identify them!

Waitstaff are donned in Minion-inspired attire so it’s very easy to identify them!

More Minions posters hanging from the ceiling. Sadly, these are not for sale at the merch corner

More Minions posters hanging from the ceiling. Sadly, these are not for sale at the merch corner

Or in the language of the minions, "Po ka?!"

Or in the language of the minions, “Po ka?!”

One part of the dining area

One part of the dining area

Apart from that, exclusive MINIONS CAFE Original Goods – currently not available anywhere else in the world – can also be purchased alongside other official “Despicable Me 3” merchandise with either cash or NETS (we didn’t see the option to pay by credit card). Considering how well-received the Minions are, long queue is expected at the MINIONS CAFÉ so why not take this chance to browse the merchandise booth while waiting to be seated or served?

A small corner for the merchandise

A small corner for the merchandise

Minion-inspired toys, snacks and stationery found here!

Minion-inspired toys, snacks and stationery found here!

Below is a low-down of all the dishes offered at the MINIONS CAFÉ with the exception of the Banana Smoothie (S$12.30+) which was missing from the media preview. Dishes that we managed to taste at the event would also be accompanied with our (honest) review as well as our verdict of the presentation, taste and value for you to make better informed decision on whether it is worth the trip.

The menu

The menu

As with most themed pop-up cafés, do bear in mind that licensing fees (the killer) and importation charges among other overhead expenses are factored into the costs so the prices will unsurprisingly be on the high side. All prices stated are not inclusive of 10% service charge and prevailing government taxes. Payment, we believe, can be made with cash, NETS or credit card. We will update should there be any factual error.

Unfortunately for my Muslim readers, MINIONS CAFÉ is not Halal-certified.

Minion’s Great Escape Cream Stew (S$20.90++)

In the latest Despicable Me film, Minions are caught and imprisoned! Oh no! This time, they are really in the cream stew!

In the latest Despicable Me film, Minions are caught and imprisoned! Oh no! This time, they are really in the cream stew!

Presentation-wise, the Minion’s Great Escape Cream Stew gets all the credit it deserves. The visual presentation of the displeased Minion is very well done to the point that it was a struggle deciding whether to keep the edible facial features of the Minion or to dissect and eat it. Of course, we went for the latter choice. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have known it was actually made of tasteless thin rice wafer instead of some cardboard material we initially suspected was solely for decorative purposes.

The saffron rice that forms the bulk of this dish is slightly buttery with a subtle sweetness. The cream base – which reminded me of cream of mushroom soup – was a little too cloying on its own for my liking but when paired with the rice, the fragrance from the carb complemented the sweetness of the sauce very well. That said, the amount of ingredients in this dish is too little. Visibly, the number of broccoli florets, carrot and potato chunks on the plate is minimal to say the least and there is far too little protein in the form of chicken meat for it to qualify as a main course. If not for the scanty portion of meat, we would have seriously thought this was a vegan dish. Nevertheless, the abundance of greens, coupled with the fact that this comes with a mini salad bowl, makes this an extremely healthy dish.   

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 🍌🍌🍌🍌
Taste: 🍌🍌
VALUE: 🍌🍌
Overall: 🍌🍌🍌

Minions Vacation Plate (S$23.90++)

Aloha! Take a trip to Hawaii with Minions and indulge in the Hawaiian Iuau inspired plate of beef hamburg and garlic shrimp, accompanied by tropical pineapple and luxurious avocado. Margo, Edith and Agnes certainly thought this dish was a great idea for a honeymoon's set up for Gru and Lucy! It comes with a green soup of Gummi Bears and meat, courtesy of our darling Agnes.

Aloha! Take a trip to Hawaii with Minions and indulge in the Hawaiian Iuau inspired plate of beef hamburg and garlic shrimp, accompanied by tropical pineapple and luxurious avocado. Margo, Edith and Agnes certainly thought this dish was a great idea for a honeymoon’s set up for Gru and Lucy! It comes with a green soup of Gummi Bears and meat, courtesy of our darling Agnes.

Looks like a glorified version of Nasi Lemak!

Looks like a glorified version of Nasi Lemak!

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 🍌🍌🍌
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived value: 🍌🍌
Overall: 🍌🍌🍌

Minion Riceball Party (S$21.90++)

Straight from Japan, Minions transform into adorable rice balls, flanked by fried prawns, sweet corn, fried chicken and French fries with original Minions Balloon.

Straight from Japan, Minions transform into adorable rice balls, flanked by fried prawns, sweet corn, fried chicken and French fries with original Minions Balloon.

Tulaliloo ti amo~

Tulaliloo ti amo~

An original Minion’s balloon will be provided with each order of Minion Riceball Party. The image on the balloon may differ and the colour (I saw pink, blue and maybe yellow) is chosen by the staff at random. The balloons are not helium-pumped and will be tied to a stick.

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 🍌🍌🍌
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived value: 🍌🍌
Overall: 🍌🍌🍌

Pizza Box (S$13.90++)

Mel and Minions are hungry! They want pizza! Unexpectedly, a live singing competition awaits them... Hawaiian pizza topped with chicken ham and pineapple, with corn and French fries on the side.

Mel and Minions are hungry! They want pizza! Unexpectedly, a live singing competition awaits them… Hawaiian pizza topped with chicken ham and pineapple, with corn and French fries on the side.

This dish comes with a Movie Scene Card which we didn’t see at the event. The inside of the cover has a maze game stuck on it to keep your children entertained as you devour the pizza in peace!

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 🍌🍌🍌
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived Value: 🍌🍌🍌🍌
Overall: 🍌🍌🍌🍌

Minion Pudding (S$24.90++)

This Minion is too cute to be eaten! Mango pudding with fruits and vanilla ice cream within.

This Minion is too cute to be eaten! Mango pudding with fruits and vanilla ice cream within.

Luk at tu!

Luk at tu! *jiggle*

This dish comes with a free character cup. A brand new cup will be provided upon order. But better act fast because limited quantities are available (while stocks last).

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 🍌🍌🍌🍌
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived Value: 🍌🍌
Overall: 🍌🍌🍌

S’more and Minion’s Ice Cream (S$16.90++)

Perfectly browned marshmallows surround a lone Minion (made of mango ice); sandwich molten marshmallow with biscuits for a campfire s'more effect!

Perfectly browned marshmallows surround a lone Minion (made of mango ice); sandwich molten marshmallow with biscuits for a campfire s’more effect!

Gelato!

Gelato!

If you’ve been eating marshmallows straight from the bag, you’ve been doing it wrong. Or rather, you probably haven’t tried s’mores yet! This traditional nighttime campfire treat popular in the United States involves roasting marshmallows before placing them between two biscuits (or atop just one piece since the biscuits provided are odd-numbered). Then, you proceed to chomp them down like a sandwich. Yummy!

The brown crust and soft gooey middle of the still-warm toasted marshmallows (which sweetness is further enhanced by the chocolate syrup beneath them) represent an epitome of a simple pleasure. In between bites, take generous spoonfuls of mango ice-cream in the shape of a lone Minion for maximum enjoyment. Needless to say, it took us no more than one bite for us to realise that we were in the presence of an absolutely heavenly combination of comfort food!

Granted, this may not exactly be the most innovative dish on the menu but is certainly one of, if not the best. However, I would advise you to share this dessert with your friends as it may be a sugar overload and calorie overkill.

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 🍌🍌🍌🍌
Taste: 🍌🍌🍌🍌
Value: 🍌🍌🍌🍌
Overall: 🍌🍌🍌🍌

Caramelized Banana (S$16.90++)

Minion's favourite food... Banana! Torched lightly to create a smoky caramelized taste. No wonder the Minions want some too!

Minion’s favourite food… Banana! Torched lightly to create a smoky caramelized taste. No wonder the Minions want some too!

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 🍌🍌🍌
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived value: 🍌🍌🍌🍌
Overall: 🍌🍌🍌🍌

Rescue Mel Affogato (S$13.90++)

Save Mel by unlocking his cell! Break open the chocolate with your spade and pour espresso into vanilla ice-cream; watch Mel float to freedom!

Save Mel by unlocking his cell! Break open the chocolate with your spade and pour espresso into vanilla ice-cream; watch Mel float to freedom!

We didn’t get to taste this, unfortunately, but just by the looks of it alone, the fun factor of this beverage warrants a high score for creativity!

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 🍌🍌🍌🍌
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived value: 🍌🍌🍌
Overall: 🍌🍌🍌

Upside-down Minion Jelly Soda Drink (S$12.90++)

Enjoy the jiggly mango jelly soda drink from bottom up!

Enjoy the jiggly mango jelly soda drink from bottom up!

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 🍌🍌🍌
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived value: 🍌🍌
Overall: 🍌🍌🍌

Be Bad Café Latte (Hot S$8.90++, Cold S$9.50++)

Minion commands you to Be Bad!

Minion commands you to Be Bad!

Hot and iced

Hot and iced

A closer look at the latte art on the hot latte

A closer look at the latte art on the hot latte

The Be Bad! Café Latte comes in hot (what we were offered) and cold and topped with two versions of latte art on thin, flavourless gelatin strips which are served randomly. Made from boiled fresh milk and espresso, the bitterness of the latte complements, or rather, balances out the sweetness of the s’mores dessert earlier. On top of that, it also refreshes the palate and provides a caffeine jolt to go with your sugar rush from the all the other dishes.

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 🍌🍌🍌🍌 (both)
Taste: 🍌🍌🍌🍌 (hot) / NOT RATED (Cold)
Value: 🍌🍌🍌🍌 (both)
Overall: 🍌🍌🍌🍌 (both)

Free limited edition original coaster with any order from the drink menu (but you're unable to choose the design)

Free limited edition original coaster with any order from the drink menu (but you’re unable to choose the design)


GRU&LUCY “GRUCY” Soda (S$8.90++)

Perfect combination of Gru and Lucy. Frozen fruits in stunning blue soda drink.

Perfect combination of Gru and Lucy. Frozen fruits in stunning blue soda drink.

We are not sure if this drink is meant to be stirred but we did in attempt to evenly distribute the flavour and fizziness. But surely it wouldn’t have caused the soda drink to instantly lose its carbonated sting? The absence of the tingling sensation intensifies the sweetness of this drink so we ended up not enjoying it as much as we hoped to. But if you are not a caffeine person in any way, this would be the most affordable (i.e. cheapest) non-caffeine beverage option on the menu.

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 🍌🍌🍌
Taste: 🍌🍌
Value: 🍌🍌🍌
Overall: 🍌🍌🍌

BALTHAZAR’s Bubble Gum?! Milk Tea (S$10.90++)

Fashioned after Balthazar's giant pink bubble that ravaged the city, dance battle it out with Robot Clive in this eclectic milk tea drink!

Fashioned after Balthazar’s giant pink bubble that ravaged the city, dance battle it out with Robot Clive in this eclectic milk tea drink!

Kampai!

Kampai!

VERDICT (out of 5)
Presentation: 🍌🍌🍌
Taste: (NOT RATED)
Perceived value: 🍌🍌
Overall: 🍌🍌🍌

Free limited edition original placemat (paper) with any order at the MINIONS CAFÉ

Free limited edition original placemat (paper) with any order at the MINIONS CAFÉ

Gru and Minions make a special appearance at the media preview!

Gru and Minions make a special appearance at the media preview!

Find out when Gru and Minions will make another appearance on The Guest Cafe Singapore Facebook page!

Find out when Gru and Minions will make another appearance on The Guest Cafe Singapore Facebook page!

You would, however, have to either make a purchase on the merchandise or dine in to get a chance to take photo with Gru and Minions. (Psst.. the easiest way to meet the mascots is to get something affordable from the merchandise corner!)

That’s all from us. We hope this little review has helped in one way or another!

Pank yu for reading and poopaye! 🖐

MINIONS CAFÉ – a concept by PARCO

Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road, #03-23/24/25, Singapore 238896
(take the escalator next to Desigual for easier access)
Opening hours: 11.00 am – 9.00 pm (last order)
Nearest MRT station: Somerset
*MINIONS CAFÉ is not Halal-certified*
PARCO SG Website | The Guest Cafe Singapore Facebook

The post is co-written with Alphonsus, my fellow glutton.

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[LUNCH BUFFET] Element @ Amara Singapore

Hello everyone!

As the saying goes, all work and no play eat makes Jack a dull hungry boy so when the offer to attend a tasting session at Element Restaurant came, I jumped at it – even if it meant to forgo an entire afternoon of catching up on work.

Conveniently located within a few minutes’ walk away from Tanjong Pagar MRT station in the heart of the Central Business District, Element Restaurant – or rather, Amara Hotel where the restaurant is set – instantly comes to mind as one of the ideal dining destinations for a hearty meal with colleagues or business partners. The restaurant caters to lunch crowds and dinner patrons with a lavish international buffet spread from 11.30 am to 2.30 pm as well as the contemporary Sicilian cuisines in à la carte menus from 6.30 pm to 10.30 pm on Monday to Sunday (except Friday) – the latter of which I had to regrettably give a miss to when it was launched due to a flu bug.

Element Restaurant

Element Restaurant

We ordered a couple of cold beverages (separate charges apply) to whet our appetites at the bar within the restaurant since only coffee and tea are offered as part of the buffet. As far as I am aware, not many buffets allow you the opportunity to order such drinks but Element has their own bar so that alcoholics wine connoisseurs can drink and make merry at the same time.

Mocktail: Shirley Temple (S$13++)

Mocktail: Shirley Temple (S$13++)

Alcoholic: Bailey (S$14++)

Alcoholic: Bailey (S$14++)

Great tasting food is my Achilles heel. But as much as I love to eat, I do have certain standards when it comes to dining at buffets due to the fact that there are many buffets out there masquerading as nothing more than overpriced and over-glorified economical rice dishes.

Amongst all my expectations, a decent variety of food is a must and the spread during the lunch buffet at Element Restaurant was, to say the least, exquisite. According to the staff, the wide assortment of dishes changes daily. From local classics such as Laksa to crowd favourites such as Japanese sushi, sashimi and fresh seafood, there is bound to be something that appeals to your taste buds. To save you from the agony of having to sit through my babbling, the pictures will do most of the talking instead.

— Appetisers —

This section serves an array of bread, soup and dim sum

This section serves an array of bread, soup and dim sum

Assortment of bread

Assortment of bread

Siew Mai

Siew Mai

Soon Kueh

Soon Kueh

Char Siew Pau

Char Siew Pau

— Japanese cuisine —

Sushi spread

Sushi spread

Apart from these Japanese staples, this stop also serves sashimi freshly prepared by the chef stationed there.

— Salad bar —

Mix and match your own salad and toppings!

Mix and match your own salad and toppings!

— Cured and smoked meat —

Selection of cured and smoked meat platter

Selection of cured and smoked meat platter

Cold cut salami

Cold cut salami

Marinated Black Fungus

Marinated Black Fungus

Tuna Tataki

Tuna Tataki

The tuna tataki was one of my favourite! It has a slightly chewy texture that leaves a sourish and slightly spicy aftertaste, leaving my palate refreshed just after a bite. It was my first time trying Tuna Tataki and I absolutely love it because of all the different flavours rolling around on my tongue. Doing a little research, I discovered that Tataki or tosa-mi is actually a Japanese method for preparing fish that has been briefly marinated in vinegar, sliced thinly and seasoned for taste. I strongly recommend this dish to anybody who is a lover of Tuna sashimi – you will surely go back for seconds!

Smoked Salmon

Smoked Salmon

— Seafood —

Seafood aplenty and regularly topped up

Seafood aplenty and regularly topped up

White Clams

White Clams

Moreton Bay Bug

Moreton Bay Bug

I pointed out excitedly to Fiona that there was crayfish at the seafood section and was eagerly adding several pieces of the tasty crustacean onto my plate when I noticed the name of the dish.

Moreton Bay Bug.

BUG? I momentarily froze as that word registered in my head. Thinking that it was a typo error, I quickly whipped my phone out from my pocket to (what else?) Google for more information. It turns out this ‘bug’ is actually a species of slipper lobsters resembling the crayfish which explains my initial confusion (because why would anyone name a delicious food after something so off-putting?). The meat was firm and moist, which means that it was incredibly fresh! While it was my first time eating it, I know it won’t be my last ☺

— Live station —

This is where the chef takes orders from buffet-goers and prepares the food on the spot

This is where the chef takes orders from buffet-goers and prepares the food on the spot

The menu at the live station changes every day. When I was there for food tasting, traditional laksa was the dish of the day. If noodles aren’t your thing, you may also opt for a small portion of claypot rice next to the live station.

Wax Rice with Chinese Sausage, Roasted Meat and Mushroom

Wax Rice with Chinese Sausage, Roasted Meat and Mushroom

— Light snacks —

Mostly cooked food

Mostly cooked food

Japanese Salmon Croquette with Spicy Mayo

Japanese Salmon Croquette with Spicy Mayo

Crispy Chicken Wings so good, Fiona ate about 8 pieces

Crispy Chicken Wings so good, Fiona ate about 8 pieces

— Desserts —

Sweet and savoury desserts to conclude your buffet experience

Sweet and savoury desserts to conclude your buffet experience

Pandan Pudding

Pandan Pudding

Cempedak Creme Brulee & Blueberry Panna Cotta

Cempedak Creme Brulee & Blueberry Panna Cotta

THIS is the star of my entire meal in my humblest and honest opinion. Element’s Cempedak Creme Brulee is out of this world! I am quite sure even Gordon Ramsay would not have anything negative to say about it. Do not be deceived by the small unassuming saucer for it packs a punch in its delivery of flavours. The Cempedak is the smaller cousin of the Jackfruit. Compared to the Jackfruit, the Cempedak is sweeter and has a stronger aroma when ripen. I caught a whiff of the aroma while I was walking past the desert section which was what led me to try it. I had no regrets at all but if there was one, it was not helping myself to more servings of the dessert before the buffet service ended. It is a seasonal fruit and as such I do not expect this dish to be available all year around so I highly recommend you to try it if you get the chance.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience dining at Element. The servers were very friendly and responsive – our plates were cleared constantly and the warm smiles they carried on their faces increased the pleasure of our dining experience. And no, our tables were not cleared all the time because we were there on a media invite. Looking around, I also noticed that other guests were also the subject of such excellent service and hospitality.

Thanks for reading!

Element at Amara Singapore
165 Tanjong Pagar Road
Singapore 088539
Tel: 6879 2607
Nearest MRT station: Tanjong Pagar

International Lunch Buffet
Monday to Friday, 11.30 am – 2.30 pm
Adult: S$49++
Child (6-12 years old): S$25++
Reservations: Chope | Quandoo

The writer is a glutton who occasionally allows his appetite free rein and steals food from Fiona’s plate. Among some of his favourite food are a good steak and meaty crabs doused in chili sauce. Read more posts by Alphonsus here.

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[FOOD NEWS] Kay Lee Roast Meat opens 7th outlet at Bukit Batok

Hello everyone!

There is now another reason to journey to the west of Singapore for popular roast meat joint Kay Lee Roast Meat has announced the opening of its first outlet in the west at 21 Bukit Batok Crescent. The chain’s seventh outlet, which will open its doors on 15th June at WCEGA Tower, will offer a part of the local iconic roast of more than 40 years. Being a Bukit Batok resident for the first 23 years of my life, I’m both thrilled and delighted that more established F&B brands are seeing potential in this mature town not widely known for its food offerings.

credit: Aztech Group

credit: Aztech Group

Legendary Dark Char Siew

Using only high quality marbled pork glazed in Kay Lee’s special home-made sweet and savoury sauce, the Char Siew are freshly and painstakingly grilled to perfection by their experienced chefs.

Signature Roast Duck

Marinated with 11 different herbs and spices for 24 hours, Kay Lee preserves its tradition by roasting the ducks over charcoal stoves to perfection. Each duck is meticulously seasoned and roasted by their experienced chefs for 6 hours. The duck skin is crispy to the gentlest bite while its meat retains its full flavour and texture.

Crackling Roast Pork

Kay Lee’s signature Crackling Roasted Pork has puffed crisp skin that crackles with every bite.

Kay Lee started out at Upper Paya Lebar Road (a few minutes away from Tai Seng MRT station) and was originally run by an elderly couple who had since sold their eatery to Aztech Group in 2014 for S$4 million as their children were not interested to carry on with the family business. With its original outlet still standing strong, the new owners have gone on to expand its reach to consumers in the central and eastern regions of Singapore.

Are you excited about this new addition to Bukit Batok? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

Kay Lee Roast Meat (Bukit Batok)
WCEGA Tower
Ground Floor, 21 Bt Batok Crescent
Singapore 658065
Operating hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 10:00 am to 9:00 pm
Bus services: 41, 183 (from Jurong East MRT) or 77, 106 (from Bukit Batok MRT)
Website | Facebook

Pokémon Cafe Singapore @ EwF Bugis Junction

Hello everyone!

Anybody growing up in the ’90s was bound to have a favourite cartoon that they would religiously follow on TV.  For me, I was an ardent Pokémaniac. Much as I hated waking up early, I made the effort to drag myself out of bed before 10am every Saturday just so that I could watch a 30-minute episode of Pokémon on Kids Central (now okto). That was before the internet became a household commodity so unless I blew my meagre pocket money on VCDs, there was no way I could catch up on episodes I missed. Even as an adult now, I still go into a frenzy at the thought and sight of Pokémon (I have a Nintendo 3DS purely for playing Pokémon). Hence, receiving the news about the opening of Pokémon pop-up cafe in Singapore has got to be the best thing that has ever happened to a Pokémon aficionado like me.

In collaboration with Everything with Fries (EwF), the pop-up cafe at Bugis Junction happening between 27 May and 31 July 2016 is the first in South-East Asia following its roaring success at Shibuya PARCO in Japan. The concept of the food and drinks in the cafe’s original menu are inspired by Pokémon stories and characters with Pikachu as the main protagonist.

The queue on a Thursday afternoon

The queue on a Thursday afternoon

As I had expected, the queue had already started to form before the opening of the cafe. Then, as if the 5-hour waiting time wasn’t intense enough, everything was sold out about 2 hours ahead of closing time on the first day. HA! Beat that, Hello Kitty!

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Pokémon merchandise is also sold exclusively at the cafe alongside other official Pokémon products which you may find at, no doubt, a way cheaper rate at the Pokémon centre in Japan. When I was there, however, popular items like the Pikachu T-shirt for adults were already out of stock, leaving only the plainly-designed one for kids. The key holders (cheaply made with plastic that scratches easily) and can badges each encased in silver plastic packaging to prevent customers from choosing the design. The only thing that is honestly worth buying is the Pokémon XY Omnibus Kalos Region at S$22.90. The merchandise corner is open to walk-ins so you don’t need to dine in order to get anything there.

Pokemon cafe - bar and kitchen area

Pokemon cafe – bar and kitchen area

Occupying the entire EwF space, the Pokémon cafe is adorned with yellow balloons, blown-up Pikachu figures and decals of other favourite characters from the Kalos region. It is apparent that considerable thought had been put into the look and feel of the cafe. Apart from the familiar tunes of the Pokémon game playing rather softly in the background, all the waitstaff sport Pikachu ears headband and have Pikachu tail dangling from their backside. Perhaps it would seem more coordinated if they have worn a yellow shirt instead of their white EwF (I suppose) uniform.

But that’s beside the point. I would rather more effort be put into the execution of the dishes because many of them turned out to be a huge letdown and embarrassment. If you haven’t been there yet, maybe this review would save you the hassle of making a trip to the cafe and waiting at least 1 hour in line (the dwindling crowd speaks for itself) only to spend close to S$100 on substandard food. In this entry, you will be treated to some behind-the-scenes happenings relayed to me by a staff as well.

Pikachu Smiling Rice Omelette with Magma Sauce (S$25++)

Pikachu Smiling Rice Omelette with Magma Sauce

Pikachu Smiling Rice Omelette with Magma Sauce

I wouldn’t have bought this Pikachu Smiling Rice Omelette with Magma Sauce if not for the complimentary Pokéball mug that comes with this dish. For the price of S$25++ for a big insipid mound of Saffron rice as Pikachu’s face and two miserably dry, malnourished and thin omelette rolled up into the shape of the ears, surely that is daylight robbery. Seaweed was used to recreate the darker areas of the face and ears. I was appalled by the ridiculous use of ketchup for the cheeks and mouth. I mean, they could have gone with red-dyed crackers or something since this rice omelette was starting to remind me of Nasi Briyani. And at the side was some salad to inject some greens in the dish. Basically, I felt like I was having a vegetarian meal because of the apparent absence of meat on the plate.

The profit margin from the sale of this dish alone must have already been enough to cover the overhead costs of the business because it’s so overpriced and bland, to say the least. How cunning of the owners, I thought, to have used the mug as a bait to diehard Pokémon fans.

Carb-loaded meal - that's how much rice was on my plate. The portion is as big as my face

Carb-loaded meal – that’s how much rice was on my plate. The portion is as big as my face

Colour of magma sauce

Colour of magma sauce

The highlight of this dish was the Primal Groudon’s magma sauce which tasted like curry, except that it was reddish-pink and not spicy at all. The overall lack of flavour of the rice was momentarily salvaged by the semi-sweet and earthy taste of the sauce which filled only half the small Pokéball cup. Goodness me! Can they get any stingier than that?

Special Move “Fire Blast”! Primal Groudon’s Bolognese (S$20++)

Special Move “Fire Blast”! Primal Groudon’s Bolognese

Special Move “Fire Blast”! Primal Groudon’s Bolognese

Upon learning that the beef patty dish was unavailable, we reluctantly switched our next order to this Special Move “Fire Blast”! Primal Groudon’s Bolognese.

Worse. Decision. Ever.

It was a typical chicken bolognese paired with egg white patty in the middle and two sides of a toasted bun with a faded Pikachu imprint and that’s it. No pasta, rice whatsoever. You’re expected to fill your stomach with just bread as your main carbohydrate food from this supposedly main course *slow clap* Perhaps the overwhelming amount of Saffron rice from the Pikachu Smiling Rice Omelette is meant to be shared with whichever poor soul has ordered this dish. Taste-wise, it was unsurprisingly mediocre. The chicken bolognese from Pastamania certainly tasted heaps better with a more generous serving of meat. So, steer clear if you’re hungry.

The “Pokéball” – looking nothing like the fondant-textured one on the menu – is made of egg white and had ketchup once again (what’s with the excessive use of ketchup, though) smeared on the upper half, thereby adding even more acidity to the already-acidic flavour of the chunky bolognese sauce. Despite the fact that all the recipes and artistic direction of the dishes were provided by the licensor (which I doubt were conscientiously conformed here because it’s quite unlike the Japanese to produce such unacceptable standard of food), the whole dish seemed to be put together by amateurs and there is clearly no attempt in flavour balancing at all.

Wanna Get Tingling!? “Volt Tackle” Soda (S$10++)

“Volt Tackle” Soda

“Volt Tackle” Soda

Mango sherbet

Mango sherbet

Just when I thought things would get better once we had our beverages, we were subjected to yet another disappointment. As per usual cafe/restaurant protocol, we expected our drinks to be served first before our mains. But alas, they only came just before our dessert. Even though we were thirsty from eating too much Saffron rice and ketchup, we were still rather cool with the wait.

About 30 minutes into our dining experience, our beverages finally came. Everything was pretty much identical to what we saw on the menu except for the mango sherbet in the “Volt Tackle” Soda. From my knowledge, sherbet is a sweetened frozen dessert made with fruits and dairy product such as milk or cream. But the barely-recognisable Pikachu sherbet in my drink looks more like coloured ice. And to top it off, there is not a single mango flavour. Nevertheless, the passionfruit soda was refreshing but no way it is worth S$10++. Not even with that less-than-one-teaspoon amount of popping candy for the added tingling effect.

(Seriously man, want to give so little popping candy then might as well don’t give la)

Stick-on Pikachu tail on all cutlery

Stick-on Pikachu tail on all cutlery

Iced Pikachu Latte (S$9++)

Iced Pikachu Latte

Iced Pikachu Latte

Finally, a perfectly executed art direction. Give this barista a pay raise!

Finally, a perfectly executed art direction in this cafe. Give this barista a pay raise!

The best item on the menu is surprisingly a beverage – the Iced Pikachu Latte – partly due to the perfectly execution of the latte art as well as its overall visual appeal.. which is sadly almost nonexistent in this cafe. The sweetness of the cream lent a refreshing contrast to the mild bitterness of the espresso which was pulled in the morning (yes, that’s right, the staff are asked to prepare the espresso early in the morning daily). But they somehow don’t blend easily so we had to keep licking the straw to taste the sweetness. One cup of iced latte takes approximately 10 minutes to make due to the pasting of Pikachu’s face and adding of the cream.

The cheeks you see here are colour melts but now the cafe has changed to using red whipped cream (man, the inconsistency..). The ears are formed with monaka (the same thin and airy wafer used in Japanese ice-cream sandwich) dipped in dark chocolate sauce forms the ears. Monaka has an light, airy and elastic texture, somewhat like our biscuit piring wafer, but is more resistant to liquid.

Complimentary Pokemon coasters with every drink purchase

Complimentary Pokemon coasters with every drink purchase

Pikachu’s Sweeeeet Pancake (S$20++)

Pikachu’s Sweeeeet Pancake

Pikachu’s Sweeeeet Pancake

Although we were told at the entrance that we weren’t allowed to request for desserts to be served later, we still ended up having to wait more than half an hour (from the time we settled down) for our Pikachu’s Sweeeeet Pancake to arrive and only after we incessantly chased for it because we were in a hurry. An insider divulged that food service can be slow at times as the cafe staff go in order of highest demand, hence the preparation of the less popular food items may be delayed. To cope with high volume of orders, the pancakes – which were the most sought-after – were made in batches of 20, kept aside and reheated in microwave oven when they need to be served. Even so, reheating takes time, thus greatly affecting the speed of service. Sometimes you may find thyme and mint leaves (for decorative purposes anyway) missing on your plate as well because the cafe has run out of them. Apart from these two ingredients, the cafe also constantly faces shortage in milk. I find this sloppy considering that the ingredients were all gotten from local suppliers.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

Puffs and crepes are perpetually served a lot slower as they require much longer preparation time.

So I guess the above explains why the queue hardly moves? It all stems from the poor management of the cafe and shortage of manpower which contributed to the long waiting time for food to be served.

Going back to our expensive dessert which also comes with a free Pokéball mug, the first thing we noted was the disproportionate appearance of Pikachu’s face compared with the ears. The edges of the uppermost pancake were ripped off as if it was scooped out of the pan in a haste with no hoots given to quality control (do they even use the mold?). Despite being supposedly reheated, the pancakes we had were still cold but that’s honestly fine with me because the sweetness of the refillable maple syrup would have taken the attention away from it.

Pikachu’s facial features on the pancake are neatly constructed with cocoa powder and topped with monaka ears. The star of this dish is undoubtedly the tail. Made using a slab of Japanese-style butter cookie, it provides a soft crunch and a melt-in-your-mouth consistency. I personally prefer this to plain-tasting monaka.

Now, I believe many of you have read this review by Vivian Tian on the “bleeding” Pikachu served with the Pokéball Cream Puff. Here’s the other side of the story, provided by the preparer herself:

The blogger (Vivian) is my friend and whatever desserts and drinks you’ve seen here is done by me. And I will take this time to explain the reason behind it.

Originally the moose you’ve seen here is meant to have film used (the same EDIBLE FILM used on our iced lattes). And I have a minimum standard of professionalism when making food, and when we found out we had no film left, we had to make red whipped cream. And, obviously, those who baked before will know that too much red food colouring will make it more liquidy. And alas, I tried my best handling something new, and it bled. 

NEVERMIND, WANT TO REMAKE. But the bloody server decided to serve my pikachu from hell to them WITHOUT ASKING. Pissed, but nevermind. Knowing they will reject, I remade it. Cause I know them well, they will know what I go through. 

And she forewarned me how strict she will be, I said okay.

In conclusion, my experience was tainted by the unnecessarily long waiting time and expensive dishes prepared using cheap ingredients which I can readily find in my home refrigerator. But then again, I don’t blame the cafe staff because their morale has probably hit rock bottom after getting pushed around by their bosses. As much as I’m a huge Pokémon lover, I don’t condone the owners’ blatant profiteering and their poor staff management. So no, I don’t recommend dining at this cafe.

Thanks for reading!

Pokémon cafe @ EwF – a concept by PARCO
Bugis Junction, 4th Floor
200 Victoria St, 188021
From 27th May (Fri) to 31st July 2016 (Sun)
Operating hours: 11:00am (last order at 9:30pm )
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KUVO @ Orchard Shopping Centre

MEDIA INVITE

Hey everyone! *waves deliriously*

It has been close to a month since my last update so I thought I should swing by to break the silence of this blog, as well as to apologise for my sudden hiatus due to my school (mainly my final-year project) and work commitments. Owing to my hectic schedule, I had to turn down quite a number of collaboration opportunities over the past few months but somehow when the invite came from the friendly folks at Media Flair to experience the new food menu and bespoke cocktail pairings at KUVO, my heart screamed for me to accept the invitation. After days of not eating well, perhaps it was about time to feed my body with some decent food!

Cheers!

Cheers!

Discreetly nestled on the second floor of the outmoded Orchard Shopping Centre located next to the H&M building, KUVO is almost inconspicuous to the casual observer. Unless you are in the know about the latest food and beverage offerings in town, or are extremely attentive to your surroundings, it is highly unlikely that you would have heard of this multi-concept restaurant and bar. In my years of walking back and forth between Orchard Cineleisure and Somerset MRT station, I had never once noticed their signage along the walkway of Orchard Shopping Centre due to their (pardon my frankness) poor visibility and lack of attention-grabbing flair. Nevertheless, even if they did catch my eye, I honestly don’t think I would be inclined to dine at KUVO at all given the uninviting look of the building’s façade.

Signage along the walkway

Signage along the walkway

Entrance of KUVO

Entrance of KUVO

But boy, the idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover” couldn’t have been more apt here because the restaurant looks nothing like the frontage of the building. Marked by a vast floor area of 9,500 square feet, KUVO comprises a bar and a large dining area offering afternoon tea at one end and all-day international menu at the other, complete with velvet sofa, soothing lighting and live music towards the end of the week. Evidently, the whole restaurant was designed with comfort and sophistication in mind, making it the perfect place for office workers to unwind after a long day at work. Furthermore, it’s easily accessible as it’s smacked right at Orchard Road!

The helmsmen at the bar in KUVO, Yutaka Nakashima.

The helmsmen at the bar in KUVO, Yutaka Nakashima.

The bar is helmed by award-winning Japanese mixologist and culinarist, Yutaka Nakashima who serves up novel and quirky individual bespoke cocktails at S$21++. To further illustrate his unique creativity, he uses a coffee mixer to create his cocktail concoction!

Concocting alcohol with a coffee mixer!

Concocting alcohol with a coffee mixer!

Live band area

Live band area – it would be a challenge to carry out conversations when the live band performs because they can be pretty loud

Have a sweet tooth? Get your sugar fix here! Chocolates and cakes are sold in this little space between the Ambrosia and the dining area

Have a sweet tooth? Get your sugar fix here! Chocolates and cakes are sold in this little space between the Ambrosia and the dining area

Dining area

Dining area

A wide selection of wine to choose from at the dining area

A wide selection of wine to choose from at the dining area

The Gazebo, catered for private functions

The Gazebo, catered for private functions

Despite its prime location, KUVO serves great food at reasonable prices and are constantly looking at ways to enrich the dining experience through the expansion of food choices and recently the introduction of the concept of pairing food and custom-made cocktails.

Grilled Octopus (S$16++)

Grilled Octopus (S$16++)

Up close: Grilled Octopus

Up close: Grilled Octopus. Shout-out to Chubby Botak Koala for loaning me his awesome photography light.

This Spanish-inspired dish was among the first few starters delivered to our table. Sous-vide and served with slow-cooked potato and smoked paprika, the slices of octopus leg were chunky and chewy with a slight charred taste. The unsuspecting potato was soft, expertly prepared and strangely more appetising than the octopus. Even though this was recommended on the menu, I didn’t think it was tasty enough to leave a lasting impression.

Calamari Ajilo (S$16++)

Calamari Ajillo (S$16++)

In this yet another recommended dish with a Spanish influence, the calamari is sauteed in garlic and extra virgin olive oil and topped with pork chorizo. While the calamari rings were indeed tender and well-cooked, they were poorly seasoned and hence were disappointingly bland on the palate. It was a shame because I had thought this dish would be a pleasant change from the classic fried version everywhere else was offering. Rather than being a star on its own, I had to ingest it with something else to make up for the lack of flavour.

KUVO Atlantic Cod Meuniere (S$20++)

KUVO Atlantic Cod Meuniere (S$20++)

In spite of the rather unsatisfactory start, things were fortunately picking up from the third dish – a sweet pea-crusted fresh cod medallion garnished with pearl barley fricassee and citrus nutty-brown butter alongside some asparagus and carrot. The sides revealed a smooth and melt-in-your-mouth texture as delicate as snow and it had such unforgettable freshness and sweetness that kept me wanting more! The creamy and viscous sauce married well with the cod too – absolutely delightful!

Brandy Flambéed Beef Cube (S$22++)

Brandy Flambéed Beef Cube (S$22++)

Before we transitioned into the cocktail pairings segment, we had beef cubes flashed-seared to give it a vividly pink centre, flambéed with brandy and finally glazed with red wine sauce for an added acidic touch. The portion was relatively generous for a starter and it could easily pass off as a main course. Still, it would take a herculean effort to stop at one serving because those beef cubes were a mouthful of thick, hearty and luscious mellowness packed a punch of flavours. They were thoroughly easy on the teeth and the bite-size makes them all the more convenient to eat. I opted for another serving because I couldn’t get enough of the tenderness and the mouth-watering blend of succulence and piquancy of the beef cubes. Needless to say, this dish stole the show that evening and I wouldn’t mind going back just for this.

KUVO Coffee Hot Wings (S$14++)

KUVO Coffee Hot Wings (S$14++)

Up close: KUVO Coffee Hot Wings

Up close: KUVO Coffee Hot Wings

Since KUVO opens late into the night every day, you can expect to find people who are just there for the alcohol and supper-goers because they serve fantastic choice of finger food, or foods that help to satisfy any hunger pangs. An example would be the coffee-flavoured spicy mid-joint wings with baby carrot crudites and blue cheese dip.

Despite not being a coffee drinker at all, I found myself diggin’ this seemingly weird combination. It didn’t have the brutal taste of coffee and the added heat made it even more enjoyable. The blue cheese dip was surprisingly nice, had little to no hint of the rotten sour cream taste that is typically associated with blue cheese and it helped heaps to neutralise the spiciness (which, by the way, was quite a kick on its own). The wing, together with the condiments were by and large fantastic. I liked how the coffee flavour had a good blend of sweet and bitter which goes perfectly well with beer or the recommended Brewski Yen.

Brewski Yen (S$21++)

Brewski Yen (S$21++)

The Brewski Yen has the thirst-quenching properties of Kirin beer as well as an added tang of Suze, lemon and ginger ale. I personally found the ginger taste a little too overbearing for me (what’s more, I’m not even a ginger fan to begin with) but I took a leap of courage and managed to down everything to the last drop. Woohoo!

Slipper Lobster (S$15++)

Slipper Lobster (S$15++)

Top view: Slipper Lobster

Top view: Slipper Lobster

Those with a more refined taste can opt for sauteed slipper lobster adorned with habanero (a kind of chilli pepper), bell peppers and cilantro. Ease of eating is assured in this dish as the lobster meat is carefully deshelled and cooked before inserting it back to the shell again.  While it failed to impress me because I didn’t feel that the portion and the taste make up for the price, my boyfriend liked the flavours and how the juices were still exuding with each bite. The heat from the peppers was a delightful addition as well.

Hello Cel'lo (S$21++)

Hello Cel’lo (S$21++)

Complementing the slipper lobster is the Hello Cel’lo cocktail made with Bankes London dry Gin, limoncello liqueur, celery bitters and balsamico. Liquor connoisseurs who are familiar with the ingredients should already a rough idea how it’d taste like. If you don’t, recall the bitterest beverage you have ever drunk in your life and multiply the acridity tenfold. You seriously haven’t tasted the extreme end of the bitterness spectrum until you have tried Hello Cel’lo because, I swear, this takes the cake. So unless you have marvelous tolerance for bitter foods (or are already used to the pungent taste of alcohol), steer clear of Hello Cel’lo!

Wagyu & Camembert Sliders (S$17++)

Wagyu & Camembert Sliders (S$17++)

Wagyu beef patty

Wagyu beef patty

In an attempt at fusing Western and Eastern delicacies, KUVO had put together a pair of sliders featuring thick and succulent housemade wagyu beef patty topped with fresh lettuce and irresistible Camembert cheese and portobello sauce, accompanied by cheese rolls and shrimp wantons on a platter. Much as we would like to commend on the texture of the patty (not overdone and was incredibly moist), we thought it was totally unnecessary to mince such high-graded beef to make the patty because it had clearly lost its distinctive fat marbling and sweetness in the process. As beef lovers (especially of those obtained from Wagyu cattle), we had high expectations for the patty but were sorely disappointed by the execution. Having said that, if you’re not as fussy as us, you would most likely enjoy the sliders as much as many of the fellow food bloggers present at the event.

Sliced Wagyu & Camembert Sliders

Sliced Wagyu & Camembert Sliders

Moving on to the other elements on the platter, we had shrimp wantons deep fried to golden brown with wasabi mayonnaise drizzled over them. Delicious! I wished there were more of the wantons! Next to them were cheese rolls sitting atop a dash of truffle cream. Disguised as Chinese spring rolls, they crumbled crisply when I stuck my fork into the centre. Perhaps because remnants of the patty were still lingering in my mouth, I couldn’t quite make out the taste of cheese. In fact, I wasn’t aware that they were made of cheese until I read the description on the menu.

Green Iceland (S$21++)

Green Iceland (S$21++)

Paired with the sliders was the Green Iceland cocktail which combines KUVO’s Italian Antica Fratta sparkling wine, Japanese umeshu, lime, brown sugar and mint leaves for extra freshness. The tongue-tingling sensation it lent was refreshing and soothing on palate. The crushed ice melted rather quickly so it kinda diluted the bitterness after a while.

English Scotch Egg (S$14++)

English Scotch Egg (S$14++)

A peek inside the English Scotch Egg

A peek inside the English Scotch Egg. No yolk oozing out because I missed the middle part where the egg was, sorry!

Coated with breaded minced wagyu beef (oh dear..) and veal meat (choice of tuna available as well), then crowned with a layer of melted edam cheese and served with red wine onion au jus at the base, KUVO takes this classic British picnic snack to the next level. When cut through in the middle, the warm and sultry yolk from the inside oozes all over the dish, further amplifying the luscious richness of the sauce while providing a nice contrast to the crisp crust of the scotch egg.

Don’t underestimate the size of the portion (a little smaller than my palm) – the fillings were so monstrously loaded, I felt slightly glutted in the end. Nevertheless, this dish is definitely deserving of a share of the spotlight. Not only is it affordable (only S$14++!), it fills your tummy as well, so I highly recommend you try this when you’re at KUVO!

Captain B.R. (S$21++)

Captain B.R. (S$21++)

Adding to the British flair is the cocktail accompaniment to this dish called Captain B.R. – short for Captain British Rum – which is created with Earl Grey Infused Rum, fresh lemon and soda water. Laced with touches of floral notes and hints of citrus, this cocktail is an absolute delight to drink even for a non-alcoholic drinker like myself!

Kurobuta Yakiniku Donburi (S$16++)

Kurobuta Yakiniku Donburi (S$16++)

Finally, bearing in mind that there would be people who had to have some carbs in their diet, we rounded off the evening with a Japanese rice bowl dish humbly topped with a small serving of perfectly seasoned and grilled kurobuta pork loin as well as molten egg that serves as the sauce, and finished off with a sprinkle of chopped spring onion. The portion is certainly appetizer-sized, so don’t expect to feel satiated with this dish that can be devoured in 3 spoonfuls.

Tales of Shu (S$21++)

Tales of Shu (S$21++)

Brewed in the glass vacuum coffee maker as mentioned earlier, this cocktail is freshly prepared with ingredients that are beneficial to the health like genmai tea, saké, Lillet Blanc, and fresh orange peel. The concoction is subsequently poured into an ochoko (saké cup) to complement the Kurobuta Yakiniku Donburi. Tales of Shu has an immensely sharp taste comparable to that of Hello Cel’lo. Therefore, one sip was all it took to make me cringe :-S But should you be able to handle strong bitterness, do consider giving this healthy cocktail a shot!

Midsummer Breeze (S$12++)

Midsummer Breeze (S$12++)

If alcoholic drinks are out of bounds for you, there is also an array of mocktails for you to choose from but you have to approach the waiting staff for assistance because mocktails are not listed on the menu. Midsummer Breeze, the only mocktail I was served, contains melon mangosteen tea, orange juice and passion fruit. Sweet and refreshing with the taste of passion fruit sticking out, it’s the kind of tropical mocktail that takes you to the beach side on a hot and sunny afternoon.

On the whole, KUVO is a hidden gem, that’s for sure! Although there are a few misses on the revamped menu, there are definitely more hits and hence worthy of a second visit. Now that KUVO is on my radar, I will certainly be returning to try out other dishes on the menu 😉

What are your thoughts? Do share them with me!

Thanks for reading!

KUVO
Orchard Shopping Centre
321 Orchard Road #02-01
Singapore 238866
Nearest MRT station: Somerset
Operating hours:
Sunday – Thursday & Public Holidays: 12pm to 1am
Friday, Saturday and Eve of Public Holidays: 12pm to 2am
Tel: +65 6733 8272
E-mail: reservation@KUVO.com.sg
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‘Tis the Season to be Feasting at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport

MEDIA INVITE

Hey everyone!

As the year draws to a close, many of us are getting into the holiday spirit by decking our houses with Christmas and New Year decorations.  At the same time, we may also take this opportunity to gather our loved ones for a memorable reunion. But no reunion would be complete without great food that puts everyone in the festive mood and what better place to experience both simultaneously than throwing a little party at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport where you are able to enjoy a wide selection of delicious and hearty meals? 😉

If you’re intending to play host to this year’s Christmas or New Year celebration but don’t feel like sweating your butt off in the kitchen and yet have no idea where to hold it, Crowne Plaza has rolled out a variety of dining options this yuletide season that centres around conversations and connections. The inspired fusion of flavours and menu items offered at their Lobby Lounge (Yuletide Takeaways) and Azur Restaurant (Festive Buffet) are sized to suit smaller more intimate gatherings among close friends and immediate family members.

Yuletide Takeaways @ Lobby Lounge

From 1 to 26 December 2015, guests can tuck into a series of delights from the Lobby Lounge specially created for this festive month at the comfort of their home. Feast your eyes and stomach on a gourmet paradise of beef, turkey and lamb, as well as a mouthwatering lineup of cakes and pastries to tantalise your taste buds.

But before I go into those, let’s kick things off with some appetisers!

Pumpkin salad

Pumpkin salad – a mix of pumpkin and chestnut

Fruit salad

Fruit salad – a mix of apple, tomatoes, melons, strawberry and nuts

Scallop topped with salmon caviar

Scallop topped with salmon caviar (price not available)

Scallop topped with salmon caviar

Scallop topped with salmon caviar

Salmon cavier

Salmon caviar

The scallop was well-seared on both sides with a fleshy, juicy and fibrous middle. It was drenched in salty gravy and paired with a layer of spinach at the bottom. The salmon caviar gave an additional burst of flavour. However, you may need to request for this dish because it’s not listed on the order chit.

The highlight of the Yuletide Takeaways is the Roasted Texas BBQ Beef Short-Rib which is sous vide (sealed in airtight plastic bags then placed in a hot-water bath of 70 degree Celsius, the same reheating method if you’re planning to eat it at a later time) for 24 hours before being roasted in the oven.

Roasted Texas BBQ Beef Short-Rib (S$120+, 1kg)

Roasted Texas BBQ Beef Short-Rib (S$120+, 1kg)

Roasted Texas BBQ Beef Short-Rib

Roasted Texas BBQ Beef Short-Rib

The ambrosial yet not-too-overwhelming flavour of the beef short-rib comes mainly from the BBQ gravy which sweetness is melded with the natural fragrance of the meat. The short-rib itself was incredibly soft with a gorgeous pink centre and perfectly rendered fat. And because it was so tender and buttery, none of it got stuck in my teeth! However, due to the time factor in the preparation of the Roasted Texas BBQ Beef Short-Rib, an advance order of 3-4 days is required prior to collection.

Roasted Texas BBQ Beef Short-Rib

Roasted Texas BBQ Beef Short-Rib

Of course, when it comes to a Christmas get-together, the dining table needs to have some sort of a roast bird, usually turkey. Having eaten it about twice in my life, I had come to a conclusion that turkey meat is not my cup of tea because of its awfully dry and tough texture. I assumed it was the same for all turkey meat in general. But Crowne Plaza has managed to prove me wrong once again!

Roasted Turkey with Turmeric Coriander Spices (S$135+, 1 kg)

Roasted Turkey with Turmeric Coriander Spices (S$135+, 1 kg)

Doused in rich and delectable Spicy Coconut Cream Sauce that tastes like sweet curry, the Roasted Turkey with Turmeric Coriander Spices is a classic example of when East meets West. The turkey itself is roasted for 6 hours at 70 degree Celsius to a golden yellow and, although somewhat thicker than chicken meat, was an absolute joy to eat for it was so succulent and chewy! The thin savoury skin (the closest description I can think of is that it is quite similar to the roast chicken skin at Poulét) was the winner for me because it was what got me hooked! I just couldn’t resist getting more servings of the turkey meat XD

Roasted Turkey with Turmeric Coriander Spices

Roasted Turkey with Turmeric Coriander Spices

If you prefer a more traditional take on the turkey, the House Special Roasted Turkey Marinated with Maple Glaze and Chestnut Stuffing served with Cranberry Sauce (S$135+, 5 kg) might just be what you’re looking for! Each whole turkey can serve approximately six to eight guests comfortably.

When it comes to celebrating Christmas, one cannot forget the lamb due to its significance in the bible (and symbolism of Christ). The Roasted Boneless Leg of Lamb with Rosemary Garlic & Caramelised Shallot Sauce ($160+, 2.6 kg) is soaked in orange brine overnight before being marinated in a fragrant combination of rosemary and garlic, and finally slow roasted at 70 degrees Celsius for over seven hours. If you’re game to try something new this Christmas (since lamb is more commonly served on Easter), you might want to give this dish a go!

Rounding out the Christmas menu from the Lobby Lounge are two festive log cakes handcrafted by the hotel’s pastry chefs because… what’s Christmas without log cakes? Indulge in either the Ispahan-inspired Log Cake with Raspberries Yoghurt Mousse or the more conventional Manjari Chocolate & Hazelnut Praline Yule Log Cake (or both, to get the best of both worlds 😉 ). Featuring a light and tangy raspberry yoghurt mousse overlaying juicy lychee bits and rose-flavoured jelly in the cake centre, the former is the answer to guilt-free (not 100% but still…) log cakes. The slightly tart (acidic) overall taste helps to relieve a bit of the bloatedness from the hearty meal.

Ispahan-inspired Log Cake with Raspberries Yoghurt Mousse (S$65+)

Ispahan-inspired Log Cake with Raspberries Yoghurt Mousse (S$65+)

The chocolate log cake, on the other hand, has a wafer-like hazelnut centre that has got that crunchy going on every bite.  It is not excessively sweet too as there was a tinge of bitterness in the chocolate. Designed to resemble an actual log from an enchanted forest, it comes topped with seasonal decorations like a mini Christmas hat. How cute!

Manjari Chocolate & Hazelnut Praline Yule Log Cake ($65+)

Manjari Chocolate & Hazelnut Praline Yule Log Cake ($65+)

Since Crowne Plaza is conveniently located at Terminal 3 of Changi Airport, guests can, upon returning from their travels, pop in the Lobby Lounge for a quick takeout before heading home. But as most of these dishes require time to prepare, you are encouraged to place your orders at least 3 days in advance to avoid disappointment! To place an order for Yuletide Takeaways, visit the hotel’s Festive Desk (24 Nov – 24 Dec 2015, 9am – 9pm), call +65 6823 5367, fax your order to +65 6823 5301 (Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm) or email christmas.cpca@ihg.com. The last collection for all Yuletide Takeaways are on 26 December 2016.

Psst.. festive hampers are also on sale if you’d like to build stronger networks with your clients *winks* More information can be found here.

Festive Buffet @ Azur

Otherwise, if you dislike waiting, Azur Restaurant also has an array of Christmas-themed selections for their festive buffet that’s catered to both Asian and Western taste buds, available from 1 to 30 December 2015. Buffet items are served in small portions to allow sampling of all the different food offered at the international buffet. Looking for ways to reward your staff for their hard work and effort throughout the year? There are round tables for larger group dining reservations for everyone to bond and laugh over brunch, lunch and dinner.

Dessert spread at the buffet

Dessert spread at the buffet

Gingerbread man atop white chocolate and cinnamon

Gingerbread man atop white chocolate and cinnamon

Santa Claus atop raspberry puree

Santa Claus atop raspberry puree

Pricing plan

Christmas Eve Buffet Dinner (24 December 2015)*
Adult $ 70 ++ Child $ 35 ++

Christmas Day Brunch (25 December 2015)*
Adult $ 65 ++ Child $ 32.50 ++

Christmas Day Dinner (25 December 2015)*
Adult $ 75 ++ Child $ 37.50 ++

Boxing Day Brunch (26 December 2015)
Adult $ 65 ++ Child $ 32.50 ++

Festive Buffet Lunch (1 – 23, 27 – 30 December 2015)
Adult $ 45 ++ Child $ 22.50 ++

Festive Buffet Dinner (1 – 23, 26 – 30 December 2015)
Adult $ 55 ++ Child $ 27.50 ++

New Year’s Eve Lunch (31 December 2015)
Adult $ 45 ++ Child $ 22.50 ++

New Year’s Eve Dinner (31 December 2015)
Adult $ 75 ++ Child $ 37.50 ++

*Spot jolly ‘ol Santa on 24 and 25 December 2015 and receive a little blessing of joy. Santa will be roving around during meal times at Azur Restaurant

To make a reservation, please call 6823 5354 or email azur.cpca@ihg.com. Reservations are highly encouraged. Visit the Crowne Plaza Dining website for more information.

That’s all, fellow foodies! Get feasting! 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Crowne Plaza @ Changi Airport
75 Airport Boulevard
Singapore 819664
For reservations: 6823 5367 (Yuletide Takeaways) / 6823 5354 (Festive Buffet)
Or you may email christmas.cpca@ihg.com (Yuletide Takeaways) /
azur.cpca@ihg.com (Festive Buffet)
Please visit their website or Facebook for more information

FIVE Square @ Great Eastern Centre

MEDIA INVITE

Hey everyone!

It was an emotional moment for many Han’s ardent fans when the announcement of the closure of the food chain’s biggest and most popular outlet at Great Eastern Centre came last December. Having served only pocket-friendly gourmet food to hungry office works for a decade, the closure meant that there would be one less affordable eating place amidst the throng of lavish restaurants in the business district.

For months after it shut down, the large ground-floor unit spanning over 13,000 square feet was left vacant for a couple of months before the next lessee took over. With such a vast amount of space, many wondered if the shop would be partitioned into smaller units to accommodate more tenants. Well, it is true enough that the unit has now been cut up into several divisions, but what most people probably didn’t expect was that these different sections are actually operated by the same company in a borderless setting.

FIVE Square @ Great Eastern Centre

FIVE Square @ Great Eastern Centre

Currently occupied by FIVE Square (stylised FIV五 Square), the latest flagship outlet of the FIVE Bar Group cleverly split the unit into 4 different concepts, each signifying a corner that makes up the newly-opened restaurant which has been operating since June 2015. From an impressive range of food choices at The Bazaar to alcoholic beverages like beer, wine and whiskey, there is clearly something for everyone.

The Bar

Synonymous with the renowned all-day-everyday $5 food and drink specials offered at other FIVE outlets, the Bar delivers the FIVE tradition of offering all-day happy hour that doesn’t break the bank. Enjoy sports screenings on large televisions and ‘live’ local bands performances at this 300-seater lounge every night while you hang out with your pals over beer, wine or sake at just $5 per glass.

The stage for live performances

The stage for live performances

The Bar

The Bar

Asahis and Kronenbourg 1664s

Asahi’s and Kronenbourg 1664’s

To chill the glass

To chill the glass

Tapping some beer

Luke showing us how to tap some beer, complete with the foam and all

Successfully did my first beer tapping! Not too bad for a first-timer.

Successfully did my first beer tapping! Not too bad for a first-timer.

And mind you, it’s not just any beer either – it’s icy cold beer! Unlike many pubs which derive their beer from keg coolers at about 4-5 degree Celcius, all beer at the Bar is directly dispensed from the cold room at 0 degree Celsius. It is especially uncommon to find cold rooms at local establishments these days due to the lack of space.

Cold room

Cold room

The Wine Cellar

Located in a tranquil little corner overlooking the busy cross junction into the CBD, visitors can sit back and watch the world go by while sipping on some wine at any time of day. With over a hundred labels of quality wines listed at the Wine Cellar, there are plenty of wine to choose from for a tête-à-tête between friends or for takeaway as gifts or for parties.

The Recess

Hidden away from the public gaze is the Recess which name is a play on words literally meaning going into a hole in the wall, to take a break from (work) proceedings. The secretive location of this 50-seater space makes it an ideal venue for company functions. It enables networking in this sophisticated and posh environment that is free of disruption from external noise and foot traffic while sipping on premium and rare whiskies without the exorbitant price tags. You would also be surprised to find popular whiskies that are already sold out across the rest of the globe!

The semi-hidden entrance to the Recess

The semi-hidden entrance to the Recess

The Recess

The Recess

The Recess

The Recess

Whiskies at the Recess

Whiskies at the Recess

Whiskies at the Recess

Whiskies at the Recess

The Bazaar

Majority of the space at FIVE Square is dedicated to this self-service gourmet food hall that seats up to 300 people. Similar to its predecessor, the Bazaar offers a variety of reasonably priced food for lunch and dinner to feed busy executives and families around the area as well as the merry-makers drinking at the adjacent bar, wine bar or whisky room – all part of FIVE Square.

The Bazaar

The Bazaar

There are five gourmet stalls offering dishes from around the world. Apart from Asian cuisines like Japanese donburis, Korean Bulgogi and our very own wholesome noodles with a twist, the Bazaar also boasts European classics such as Spanish Tapas and German Bratwurst Sausages served with pork, chicken and steak. Vegans and health-conscious individuals can opt for hearty salads to pair with fresh fruit juices from the beverage stall. With so many choices, FIVE Square has managed to achieve a fine balance of everyday affordability and occasional decadence to create a dining concept that can be your everyday lunch spot or your weekly indulgence. What’s more, all prices are nett! Yay to no service charge and GST! 🙂

The food stalls are open from 10am to 10pm every Monday to Saturday.

Beverage stall

Beverage stall

Papaya Milk Shake

Beat the heat with a cup of refreshing Papaya Milk Shake (S$4.50)

1. Cinqo Tapas

A spin-off from the popular Tachinomi Izakaya-inspired Five Tapas Bar at Cuppage Terrace, the Spanish-equivalent to its name (well, sort of, if cinco is spelt properly) offers a selection of the hot-selling items such as the garlic cockles (S$6), bacon mushrooms (S$6) and whole pork knuckle (S$28). For lunch, Cinqo serves up two different Paellas ($9.50) cooked fresh daily – the traditional seafood staple is available every day while the Paella of the day varies. These special Paellas include several Asian-inspired flavours such as the Claypot Rice Paella, Hainanese Chicken Rice Paella and Thai Pineapple Rice Paella which fuses local flavours with European ingredients and cooking styles; a definite must-try!

Cinqo Tapas

Cinqo Tapas

Seafood in Chilli Crab Sauce Pizza (S$15)

Seafood in Chilli Crab Sauce Pizza (S$15)

Seafood in Chilli Crab Sauce Pizza (S$15)

Seafood in Chilli Crab Sauce Pizza (S$15)

Hand-tossed with a 10-inch thin crust, this seafood pizza came topped with a generous shower of squids which unfortunately were too dry and tough for my liking. The chilli crab sauce also failed to impress as it lacked heat and flavour, therefore making the overall taste bland. However, I did enjoy the airy and crispy crust. It was well-balanced with just the right amount of doughy goodness. The pizza is available all-day at S$15 in 5 other flavours – Pepperoni, Vegetarian, Asian-Inspired, Quattro Formaggi and Prosciutto Carpegna & Arugula.

I was supposed to try their signature Paella too, but my stomach had reached its peak by the time it was ready to be served. It was pity as I was pretty sure it would be a million times tastier than the pizza considering the number of times I was urged (albeit subtly) by the marketing team to try it. The unique flavour combinations, too, are definitely worthy of a shot.

The menu gets even more enticing at dinner (from 5pm) with the addition of Truffle Fries (S$10), Angus Beef Carpaccio (S$10), Angus Beef Cubes (S$12), Pan Seared Foie Gras (S$12) and many other crowd favourites. With so many food options at Cinqo to rouse your palate, you certainly would see yourself coming back for more!

2. Teppei Syokudo

If the name rings a bell, that’s because Teppei Syokudo is indeed a branch from its famous parent restaurant, Teppei, at Tanjong Pagar. Best known for his top-grade yet affordable Japanese food at his flagship restaurant, Chef Teppei brings the same goodies that have made him such a hit to his latest outlet at FIVE Square – the Katsu Don (S$15.80), Chicken Nanban Bento (S$13.80), and the ever popular Kaisendon (S$16.80) which are literally flying off the counter. There is also a wide selection of Izakaya style snacks specially created to cater to the drinking crowd!

Teppei Syokudo

Teppei Syokudo

Kaisendon

Kaisendon (S$16)

Kaisendon

Kaisendon

Being the first dish I had sampled for this tasting session, Teppei had unknowingly set the bar for the food standard at the Bazaar sky high with this divine bowl of Kaisendon. This seafood don had thick, large and absolutely fresh salmon sashimi cubes and tuna sashimi chunks atop a bed of well-prepared Japanese rice and completed with tobiko and a tiny dollop of wasabi to clear the palate. The sashimi are to die for and the entire dish was simply scrumptious. It’s so SYOK, I swear!

After a few mouthfuls of the Kaisendon, I had to battle with my inner self to abstain from devouring some more because of the sprawl of food before me. It was tough but I eventually managed to achieve this almost-impossible feat – only after gobbling down every piece of the sashimi in the bowl.

Pork Katsu with Egg

Pork Katsu with Egg (S$15.80)

Served alongside a separate bowl of Japanese rice, the katsudon was another plate of comfort. Besides giving the dish texture, the corn also lent a mild sweetness to the overall flavour. Portions were generous as there was quite a fair bit of pork. The meat was tender and there was sufficient gravy and egg scramble to make it moist yet maintaining the crunch of the batter at the same time.

3. Omnivore

From the brains behind The Soup Spoon comes another healthy concept that offers wholesome salads and grills. Whether you’re a meat eater or a veggie lover, you’d be able to find food that suits your diet at Omnivore. From salads for the Herbivores (S$6.80) and perfectly grilled meat platters for the Carnivores (S$16.80) to a combination of both for the Omnivores (S$12.80), there are numerous food combinations to choose from to create your own perfect plate of healthy goodness. Not sure what to eat? The fickle-minded can also opt for the Carnivore sample platter (S$24.80) which comprises everything!

Omnivore

Omnivore (S$12.80)

Omnivore

Omnivore

Having a balanced meal is imperative in making your body function properly but many a time, busy working professionals fall short on essential nutrients like fresh vegetables or proteins from surviving on merely convenience food. If you’re guilty of this, hopefully this dish would propel you to eat more healthily!

Offering the best of both worlds, not only would you get half-sized Herbibowl (a.k.a. salad) on your Omnivore plate, you would also be able to choose a meat and housemade sauce of your choice. I was given grilled chicken thigh doused with Ponzu Miso Butter sauce that had a sweet citrusy taste and a subtle sour finish to it. The chicken was succulent and cooked perfectly and there were even crispy wonton skins (without fillings) to spruce up your greens (if you’re not a veggie person, that is).

Carnivore Sample Platter

Carnivore Sample Platter (S$21.80)

Carnivore Sample Platter

Carnivore Sample Platter

A food heaven for the carnivores, this platter has all the (common) meat to fulfill your protein needs. Indulge in grilled pork cutlet, 100% NZ grass-fed flank steak, Bratwurst sausage, chicken thigh and chicken breast with this brilliantly thought-out dish. They were all well-garnished and lean. Better still, they also came with a homemade sauce of my choice, or rather, two in my case since it was a food tasting session. I had Ponzu Miso Butter and House Gravy, both of which had their own distinctive taste to compensate for the lack of flavour of the platter. Ponzo had a thicker consistency while House Gravy was lighter and way blander.

However, except the sausage, I personally found the meat (especially the steak) rather dry and tough in general. But then again, perhaps I had too high of an expectation for this platter. Also, unless you’re extremely hungry, chances are you wouldn’t be able to finish the entire platter. Therefore, it’d be a better idea to share this with friends or colleagues!

4. Gogibox

Gogibox is the first quick-serve Korean food concept in Singapore offering 7-8 kinds of daily freshly grilled Bulgogi for you to choose from. They pride themselves on their Bulgogi—literally meaning “fire meat”— which they consider to be  their strength and culinary weapon. On top of that, Gogibox also offers 3 kinds of Korean fried rices namely kimchi, prawn and bulgogi marinade. Snacks like fried dumplings are provided on the side menu should you feel like getting some quick bites.

Gogi Plate - Beef

Gogi Plate – Beef (S$8.50, top-up S$1.80 for each additional meat)

Gogibox’s signature is the Gogi Plate served in a takeaway box. It comes with 1 choice of Korean fried rice, 1 choice of bulgogi (beef, chicken, spicy chicken, spicy pork, pork galbi, gochujang pork bell or wine pork belly), fried egg and a side of salad, all combining to give you a complete meal that would leave you satiated without burning a hole in your pocket at the same time.

My first impression of this dish was that it looked dry but fortunately my beef turned out to be deliciously sweet with the right tenderness. Apart from the beef, the flavours were also coming from the fragrant kimchi fried rice. Presentation-wise, it suffered because of the broken and dried-up egg yolk. And being served egg yolk that is anything but runny is sadly at the top of my list of pet peeves :\ Therefore I didn’t really enjoy Gogi Plate as much as I wanted to.

Gogi Dog

Gogi Dog – Chicken (S$6.80)

If you’re in the mood for a lighter bite, there are plenty of options at Gogibox like Gogi Dog and Gogi Taco that can fill your stomach for awhile. The Gogi Dog is a combination of American hot dog and the bulgogi. It had soft and fluffy buns sandwiching fresh, crunchy cabbage and a steaming hot sausage. The saltiness from the sausage also helped to balance out the overall flavour.

Gogi Taco

Gogi Taco  – Spicy Chicken (S$6.80)

The Gogi Taco, on the other hand, is Gogibox’s interpretation of Mexican taco using thick and chewy wraps and the freshest vegetables. Although not very spicy (it could well be after several bites), the chicken still left a tingling sensation in the mouth. It also has the tendency to become a messy affair if not careful. Divide it with cutlery if you’re a messy eater like me. It surprising cut very smoothly!

Omnivore (left) and Gogibox

Omnivore (left) and Gogibox

5. GRUB Noodle Bar

Previously located at Rangoon Road, the popular brand of noodles has finally made its way to a more accessible location at the CBD. Best known for its tasty broth, it is made using beef bones and vegetables and boiled for long hours to extract the full flavour from the beef bones. Furthermore, it contains no MSG or artificial flavours. GRUB Noodle Bar also prides itself on offering only quality beef with its noodles. Take your pick from grades of beef often only found in high-end steakhouses, starting from a pasture-fed beef brisket (S$10.90) to a tender premium sirloin option (S$13.90).

Grub Noodle Bar

Grub Noodle Bar

Pork Collar Noodles - Dry

Pork Collar Noodles – Dry (S$9.90)

Pork Collar Noodles - Dry

Pork Collar Noodles – Dry

Besides the miso pork broth, GRUB apparently makes great chilli sauce to go along with the noodles too! It was adequately spicy and slightly tart which complemented well with the sweet and flavoursome 100% pork balls and springy egg noodles. If not for my exploding stomach, I would have totally went for one of their the beef noodles as well!

The pork collar noodles is available in both soup (S$7.90) and dry versions. Those with a more exquisite palate may opt for the Kurobuta Collar Noodles that is also sold in soup (S$10.90) and dry (S$12.90) versions.

Payment methods

Payment instructions

Payment instructions

In a bid to reduce reliance on manpower, the Bazaar is the first to roll out a fully automated self-service ordering and payment kiosk. It is integrated to a SMS system which sends customers a message once their food is ready for collection so that they do not have to wait by the store while their orders are prepared. Customers can also use this time to look for a seat or purchase drinks and other items. This system has been warmly received by the masses and touted as a game-changer for the food and beverage industry here.

Family FUN² @ FIVE Square

Although catered mostly to working professionals during the workweek, FIVE Square continues to be abuzz on Saturdays (the only weekend on which it is open for now) with family-centric activities. Starting 10 October 2015, a refreshing concept combining feast, shop and play called Family FUN² @ FIVE Square enables patrons to tuck into a selection of food for lunch and/or dinner and browse through a myriad mix of eclectic items at The Artisan Market while their little ones have a whale of a time at the outdoor Bouncy Castle, mini ball pit and remote control cars.

The free and open-to-public event is only available on Saturdays.

Pushcarts at The Artisan Market

Pushcarts at The Artisan Market

25 vendors will be stationed at The Artisan Market from 12pm to 7pm every Saturday to sell an extensive blend of products and services ranging from hand-made accessories, arts & crafts, fashion apparels, decor, home-ware items and more. Apart from that, visitors can also expect an exciting line up from the bustling marketplace showcasing their participating artisans and lifestyle vendors such as clay miniatures, personalized craft /scrap books, crochet bears, patchwork blankets, bottle lamps and many more, providing a unique shopping experience for both the locals and tourists!

Bouncy Castle

Bouncy Castle

Remote Controlled Cars

Remote Controlled Cars

Mini Ball Pit

Mini Ball Pit

However, the management of FIVE Square is still working on bringing more children-friendly dishes at the Bazaar so food choices for the little ones (especially those below the age of 5) is still quite limited for now. Hence, it is advisable to pack lunch just in case foods like fried calamari do not suit their appetite!

All in all, I feel that FIVE Square has done a pretty good job in taking over Han’s task of providing affordable and quality food for the masses in the CBD area. I, for one, would without a doubt make FIVE Square my regular eating place if I’m working in the vicinity! I will stuff my face with Kaisendon every single day! Omnomnomnomnom.

What about you? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

Thanks for reading!

FIVE Square
Great Eastern Centre @ 1 Pickering Street
#01-03, Singapore 048659
Tel: +65 87980245
Parking available @ Great Eastern Building at the rate of $1.65 per hour
Operation Hours: 10am – 12am, Mondays to Saturdays
Nearest MRT: Telok Ayer / Chinatown / Clarke Quay (all about 5-minute walk away)
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