Lunch at The Plain, Craig Rd

It was just my second visit to the Plain, since my first trip several years ago, before I moved to this area for work. In fact, it is strange that with my office so nearby, I haven’t actually thought of re-visiting, maybe because in my mind, I wanted to try out other cafes in the neighbourhood that I have yet to check out… or there was just a period of time where I considered it extravagant to lunch at cafes on a regular basis. Well, I still subscribe to that school of thought somewhat, but then another school of thought has entered the picture, that life is fairly short and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves, scrimping and saving… to what end, I’d think. Sure, saving is important, whether it is for the proverbial rainy day, or towards building a nest egg for retirement, however much that kind of money will contribute to.

So, recently I have given myself more liberty where lunch options are concerned. It is supposed to be healthier too to step out of the office during lunch, instead of cooping myself up with packed lunches.

On one such lunches, at the Plain, I ordered a serving of plain toast (sourdough) with earl grey and fig jam (this piqued my interest), and a cup of bircher muesli.Instead of a slice, perhaps they had an extra tiny slice that they decided to give it to me anyhow, I got 1.5 slices. I really love the bread! In itself, sourdough is a type of bread that I enjoy and prefer over white (and usually soft and limp) bread, but the fact that this bread is very well-toasted made it all the better! I wonder if I can re-create the same effect using the oven, since I do not have an oven toaster at home which would make it so much easier and convenient to toast something (I blame it on the gross lack of space in the kitchen, no counter-top space to spare at all). But then it would seem like an overkill to switch on the oven just to toast a couple slices of bread, don’t you think? The earl grey and fig preserve didn’t really stand out as having much of the earl grey flavour. I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t focusing, or maybe the sweetness of the fig somehow overwhelmed any inkling of tea flavour?

The bircher muesli was made up of organic oats soaked with apple juice, sliced apples, flaked almonds and topped with honey-infused yogurt. The small serving that I ordered, with the 1.5 slices of toast, was just nice to fill me up at lunch without causing me to feel too bloated, or again as usual the stomach is not communicating to the brain what it’s feeling. Such simple breakfast food makes for an enjoyable lunch, even if it was without coffee.

Interestingly, as I was Googling for the menu online so that I could provide a better description of the stuff I ordered, as well as to confirm the names, I saw that in the menu that was dated 2011, the price of Plain Toasts was S$3.50 for a slice, which as of 2014’s menu, had been revised to S$4.00 for the same. Ok, that is pretty reasonable even though it’s a 15% inflation over 3 years. The same quantum of increase was also noted for the small-sized bircher muesli, from S$5.50 to S$6 (10%). So it would seem that it has been around for a pretty long time, at least 5 years in the running! I hope they would stick around for some time more, and perhaps one of these days I will return again for their simple yet amazing toast!

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Selfish Gene Café, Craig Rd

Recently, I have had more opportunities to check out cafes around the office because I have been heading out for lunch more often (yay…). Other than Drury Lane, which is a favourite because of their (imo) awesome-mosome sandwiches, there are still many others around that are good too that I have not tried out or revisited.

One of those that I had gone to, several years ago, was Selfish Gene Cafe, located along Craig Road. I had only been there once, and it’s great that they are still around, what with the fickle cafe scene in Singapore that has seen many new cafes opening on a weekly basis, but at the same time we also see a dearth of cafes on an equally regular basis perhaps. The last time I went to Selfish Gene, I think I had a salad, if I remembered correctly. This time since we were in a slighter larger group, or should I say trio, we had more options. But then again, I still have not tried their coffee, because I try to limit my caffeine to one per day and I already had my regular kopi-o that day.

So first up, dessert! Weird but that’s what females are more interested in, the sweets, and I recalled reading about their banana cake, which is supposed to be quite a crowd favourite and popular item. And this is it! A warm banana cake with real banana slices, drizzled with a little peanut butter, yummy…
There isn’t any further pictures of the cake as we just dove into it when it was served after the mains, but this cake isn’t too dense or light, and it did have a rather distinctive banana taste, whether it is due to the bananas used or simply some essence that was put into the batter. Nevertheless, it receives a thumbs-up from me, especially since I’m a fan of banana cakes/breads.

We ordered two mains to try. The first was salmon that was served on a small bed of mash and veggies. From the picture you can see that there is a little alfafa sprouts, and probably the rest a mixture of … cabbage, tomatoes and… ? It’s not a huge portion, especially when three of us were sharing it but the salmon was nicely-done, of course much better than my own maiden attempt haha.The other main we ordered was a breakfast/brunch item, still available at that time. This was kind of like the full works kind of breakfast platter, that came with a slice of sourdough cut into half, a sausage, sauteed mushrooms, bacon, hash brown, a generous portion of creamy smooth scrambled eggs and some greens. I can imagine that this would be too much for a person, especially if I were to think that the person is me, since there are too many elements on this plate that I do not even eat! But it balanced out the salmon main well, and at the end of the meal, with 2 mains and a dessert shared among three of us, my 2 colleagues actually commented that they were really full. But as for me… as usual, I don’t know how the feeling of full is like maybe? Somehow, it seems like my brain and stomach aren’t linked very well, I seldom know when I feel full, and usually I don’t feel it, unless I drink a lot of water at meal-times, which would make me feel bloated and not so much of full. I don’t know, maybe I am just not consciously thinking if I am full. 

Anyway, Selfish Gene is a great cafe to chill out at, and I think they do private functions as well. But their opening hours are little unfriendly. Of course, with me working around the area, I could definitely make it for lunch, but then they are usually open from 10am to 5pm, sometimes closing earlier at 3pm on certain days. That’s like even shorter than office working hours! But I guess it’s all about work-life balance for the owner and his staff and as long as the operating hours are sufficient to keep them afloat, it’s all good!

Lunch at Drury Lane

It has been a few times since I’ve been to Drury Lane along Tanjong Pagar Road, and so far I have not repeated anything on its food menu. I think I have tried the banana cake/loaf with espresso butter that I really liked and found interesting (at least the espresso butter was something different!), some sandwich that I enjoyed, a yogurt with fruits cup that I found to be wanting in filling me up (but that is just me, maybe) and on this latest trip, I decided to order something from the Mains menu, because my friend had some deal that gave 1-for-1 on Mains, sandwiches not included unfortunately.

This was our order.
The ondeh-ondeh cake, which has a really distinctive taste of the Malay kueh, even though I just took a small bite of it. I wouldn’t say I am a big fan of ondeh-ondeh in general but I do enjoy these kuehs from time to time. Looking at it, it actually makes me think that it could be gula melaka or some other variant of kueh (something).
My friend’s order, which was Salted Eggs Benedict that was served with prawns on soft, steamed mantou buns. These look quite awesome, other than the fact that I prefer bread to be harder for better chewiness and bite, and salted eggs are not my kind of thing. I know of one friend who really hates eggs benedict because she doesn’t like the Hollandaise sauce; not sure if she likes salted eggs though, because then this probably doesn’t have Hollandaise?And my order was Rosti with Truffled Mayo and Herbed Sunny Eggs, with avocado and mushrooms. From the mains menu, this was about the only thing that I would consider ordering, since I didn’t want the various types of eggs benedict, or pastas/risottos. The rosti was frankly, a little too well-done that it’s kind of burnt. I didn’t so much as dig the truffled mayo too, which I also do not know if there was much truffle taste in it. Overall, it was ok though, because of the mushrooms, avocado and egg!
The next time I visit, I would probably choose to just have the sweets (banana bread or pay-as-you-wish muffins) or the sandwiches!

Latteria Mozzarella, Duxton Hill Singapore

Restaurant week just ended not too long ago, and as much as I have heard about it and read about it, seen pictures on friends’ blogs and instagrams of the posh-nosh food that they enjoyed during this time of each year (actually now it happens twice a year), I have never once partook in it. I just got to know that the concept originated from New York, where this initiative was birthed to let more people access the high-end restaurants through a more affordable menu. It is of course hoped that despite the competitive pricing, they don’t compromise on other aspects, such as quality. I can’t really comment on that since in the first place I seldom visit high-end restaurants. Either you can say that I don’t have expensive taste-buds, I don’t know how to enjoy the good food or I simply just am a eat-to-live person. Anyhow, this year marks my virgin experience at Singapore Restaurant Week and I checked out Latteria Mozzarella at Duxton Hill. I love working in the Tanjong Pagar area because besides the availability of many of such apparently well-known restaurants, there is also a good mix of other eateries and F&B outlets, cafes, etc. There are even hawker stalls, several of whom are definitely worth their salt!

So this was the menu that was presented for Restaurant Week for a lunch set.IMG_0318.JPGThe choice comes in the main, where you have 3 options of either crab, lamb or fish. Of the 4 of us, two of us chose the fish and the other two the lamb shank. I wonder why no one picked the crab but since I am no crab or lamb fan, it was an easy, or rather, no option for me.

The appetizers were served up, bocconcini in carrozza, arrabbiata sauce, which is like a fried mozzarella ball.

IMG_0319.JPGThis is a closer look at a cut-up piece. It’s actually pretty tasty, with its exterior thinly coated with I guess flour and then fried, while the inside still retained the fairly soft texture of mozzarella cheese.

IMG_0320.JPGMy main of the sea bass filet, chick peas, pesto & cherry tomatoes. The filet portion was just nice for me, so I figure it could be too little for bigger eaters. But the sauce, which I think is most likely blended chick peas, helps to give you a bit more satiety, and the pesto gave a little contrast to the flavour of the fish and chick peas. But sea bass isn’t my most preferred choice of fish though as it feels a bit tough especially the parts near the skin.

IMG_0321.JPGThis was a picture of the lamb shank with mushroom orzotto which the other two had. I didn’t ask them how it tasted but they cleaned their plates so I am guessing it should be good, otherwise it just meant that they were really hungry. It could be either actually, considering that they are both guys but the orzotto should have provided a good amount of carbs for them.

IMG_0322.JPGAnd it’s dessert time! As with all good Italian restaurants… presenting the Tiramisu! This was served with espresso cream. I was really taking my time with the cake, slowly savouring every little morsel of it and enjoying it with the espresso cream. It’s quite nice, not too soft and mushy but some others I have tried, and I find the taste and flavour to be just nice, not too strong but still having that distinct tiramisu signature taste.

IMG_0323.JPGOf course, this was then ended off with a coffee, which I neglected to take any pictures because it was just black coffee, and because the rest of the table just aren’t into this habit of snapping pictures of their food. They already accommodated me by offering me the chance to snap the lamb shank! For a nett price of S$25, it isn’t what you would typically pay for lunch (heck, it can be my entire week’s worth of lunch budget!), and I don’t know what is the usual pricing at Latteria Mozzarella, but I think it should be considered quite worth it for the 3-course meal and I thought taste-wise it was pretty good! Again, as I have never been there before I wouldn’t have been able to provide any comparison. 🙂

Drury Lane, Tanjong Pagar Singapore

I have read and heard about this place before and had always wanted to check out the cafes nearby the office. So one afternoon, I finally decided to do it and went there for a small lunch of coffee and cake. They didn’t really have many choices where cakes and pastries are concerned, instead they do serve sandwiches and all-day breakfasts, which I wasn’t that keen on anyway. So I ordered an Americano and a slice of banana bread served up with espresso butter. The description piqued my curiosity, I have heard and known of nut butters like the usual peanut, almond and cashew, even some others that I have never tried before, but espresso butter??!? I was just browsing the pictures on their Facebook page and there seems to be so many yummy-looking food. Unfortunately I wasn’t in a breakfast mood that day and maybe I was too late for the tarts, cakes and etc., that are supposedly baked fresh in-store daily! 😦

Oh well, that is probably a great big hint from the Drury Lane folks, subtle or otherwise, that I need to go back one of these days. Hey guys, I want to try your pastries!

So here’s a look at the second level of the cafe that is located in the double-level shop houses along Tanjong Pagar Road. I was seated at a small table next to a window, just right in front of the stairs landing leading up from the ground level, so this is pretty much almost the whole of level 2 that you can see. At least it’s fairly spacious.IMG_0016-0.JPGAnd there was a lovely small pot of flowers on the table to brighten up the afternoon, letting me enjoy the solace and peace of this sojourn.

IMG_0014.JPGAnd a closer look at my slice of banana bread with the strong brew. The coffee is good though having Americanos always mean that I don’t get those lovely latte art that I always see in pictures online and elsewhere. Well, I suppose maybe on some days I should opt for a latte or cappucino just for the latte art, but then somehow that just kind of masks the real taste of the coffee and gives it too milky a flavour. Not that I am a connoisseur but there really is a difference drinking coffee with and without milk.

IMG_0015.JPGAnd the espresso butter is really quite something! It’s special and contains palpable hints of espresso. I just hope that the next time I visit, I will be able to try something else and not veer back to this unique offering on a banana bread that is still moist and delicious!

different shade of indulgence… greens!

There are two groups of people, one who thinks I am extremely conscious of what I eat, and another who thinks I only indulge. Like most people, I am in the middle, or perhaps I am neither here nor there, but mirror what most people try to do in striking a balance, or attempt to, between the good and bad foods in life. Fortunately for me, there are some kinds of food that I enjoy that actually fall into the healthy category, at least from what I believe them to be. Greens are one of such things, something that I came late to discover, the goodness of them. I used to think that eating salads was a plain waste of time and money, with the high and exorbitant price tags on a bowl of leaves. I am not too wrong but yet I couldn’t be more wrong. Salads are not just about raw vegetables and nothing else, they can contain much, much more things that can spice up the dish, and in some cases, things can be added to the mix that can also turn this supposed healthy meal into a calorie minefield. I try to keep mine fairly healthy, whether it is meatless or not, because I am not a big fan of creamy dressings or in fact, even drenching my salads with dressings. It can get quite unpalatable when the vegetables become soggy and soft due to them being drowned in salad dressing that is overly generous.

Here are some that I’ve had recently. Toss & Turn, a small salad portion of rockets for the base (or you could pick cous cous, noodles or maybe rice I think), 2 proteins and 2 other toppings, for S$7.80. They have rather nice salads although I have never tried the options on the menu since I prefer to mix-and-match based on what I like to eat. But I find their service wanting, even if I typically just pack away. Couldn’t hurt to smile a little more or be a little friendlier like perhaps the service crew at Starbucks or the likes, right?

20140617-101420-36860722.jpgThen there’s this salad shop near my office called The Lawn. A fairly generous bowl of salad, with mesculun as base (if I remember correctly) and 5 standard toppings, for S$9.90. You could add a whole lot of other stuff to it that would of course then add to the price of the salad but it also means you can have a wider variety to make your meal more interesting. This is probably the first salad shop I’ve visited that serves chestnuts!

20140617-101420-36860679.jpgSomewhere tucked into a small little shop of Tanjong Pagar exchange is this salad shop called Cluck Cluck. Actually I am not sure if that’s its name, but I heard they were opened by this other shop by that name diagonally opposite it, which sells country-style furniture and home furnishings. It’s mainly for takeaway, salads that come in a reusable plastic box at S$4.90 for 5 standard toppings, or you can swap that for 3 standard toppings and 1 premium topping (e.g. meats and I’m not sure what else because I’ve never chosen that option here).

20140617-101420-36860765.jpgAnd we have the usual, Salad Stop, that is just a stone’s throw away at Capital Tower. This picture wasn’t taken at that outlet, since I’ve only been there once; there are just way cheaper options in that area to make me want to drop in. For S$9.90, you get greens (frankly, I can’t tell these leaves apart, but I think these are romaine lettuce) plus 5 standard toppings. I’ve ever just mixed-and-matched and ended with a salad that set me back by about S$14, that nearly made my eyes pop out. There is a reason why a lot of these salad shops in the area are frequented by a certain type of crowd. Folks like me can’t afford to have such salads on a daily basis, and yet I am too lazy to DIY. It really is more economical for me to just buy all my raw ingredients and bring my own salad to work, but then… that is probably something that I will consider doing when I finally get my own home.

20140617-101420-36860597.jpgMid-week tomorrow. Yay!

Selfish Gene Cafe, Singapore

I had been wanting to check out this place for a long time. Being the big procrastinator that I am, there are many places that I have read or heard about that go into a “go one day” list, something that my friends and I made up eons ago (yes, pardon our Singlish), but somehow many of them remain on that list, unvisited. You see, many of these nice and interesting cafes that we read about are located in places that aren’t too public-transport friendly. But but, Selfish Gene Cafe (SGC) is slightly different, because it is actually not too far from my office! Yay!20140204-211134.jpgIt isn’t too different from many of the cafes that have sprouted up on our little island state in the last couple of years, occupying a little space in a cosy shop house unit, sometimes with the benefit of added sunlight filtering in from an overhead sun-roof of sorts that instantly makes the tiny space look a little bigger than it actually is. The mismatched furniture concept isn’t that new anymore but in this case, it isn’t too haphazardly put together but the overall look and feel is still pretty laid-back and homely. I suppose that is a way of offering customers a comfortable environment to chill out at.

20140204-211141.jpgI didn’t order any coffee that day, but there are days, Tuesday I think, where they have a promotion called “Thirsty Tuesday”? Coffee is at $1 off (not sure if you need to order any food to get this discount). So I can’t comment on the quality of their beverages but I suspect that if I were to order an Americano, I would most likely feel that it is too acidic for my liking. Sadly, I have cheap taste buds that don’t take to good things well. Coffee from the commercialised joints like Starbucks or Spinelli is fine for me, but those that I have tried from the other cafes that apparently serve up gourmet coffee have often times proven too strong and acidic for my liking.

This is my friend’s order of the Beef sandwich, which looks good and I think should taste pretty decent too! Just check out how juicy and tender the beef looks.

20140204-211146.jpgI had a chicken salad, which actually does not have a lot of greens like I had imagined it might but the chicken was quite generous. It tasted ok but I think where salads are concerned, this doesn’t rank among the better ones that I’ve had, especially when this cost me $10. So this cafe-popping hobby of mine is quite pricey, exacerbated now that some of these cafes are within reach of my working place!

20140204-211151.jpgThought of trying their desserts because like how I am automatically drawn to bags when I enter any shop (yes even if bags aren’t their main product), cakes and pastries are the things that catch my attention when I am in a cafe. The only one I could recall now is the banana cake, which looks like the banana walnut loaf at Coffee Bean (in the same oblong shape) and they actually slice up a banana and arrange the slices on top of the loaf. I saw two guys near me sharing one after their lunch and it looks good, but I resisted the temptation! Maybe next time, just like the carrot cake at Department of Caffeine the other day, these shall go into my “eat one day” list.