Skinny Pizza, Singapore

7 Mar

Singapore, Jan 2012

i was walking around the basement of Raffles City – that wonderful maze of restaurants and shops 🙂 – when i saw a poster with the words “Skinny Pizza” and an arrow pointing in some direction. i stopped for a moment, thanks to the unique name, but couldn’t go looking for the place as i was en route to meet a friend. some days later, when planning a dinner with a good friend and his wife, i remembered the sign, and googled the name. within a few minutes, i was texting my friend on this fabulous new place i had chanced upon, and he responded enthusiastically – lets go! 🙂

Skinny Pizza in Raffles City is a stylish dining space that blends sophisticated fittings with the atmosphere of a friendly bistro. the restaurant seems to fill up fast, so it would be better that you book a table in advance. walk in, look around, take in the settings, and then ask for the menu – and wait impatiently until you can sink your teeth into your pizza! 🙂 but wait, maybe you should try some sides first – the seared brie cheese, or the truffle fries. my friends who opted for the sausage said it was awesome, so you have their word for it. we

ordered the house cocktail (the name ends with ‘punch’, but it eludes my memory right now). the drink was served in a round tin cup (which looks more stylish than i am making it seem here) and was a refreshing accompaniment to the meal. given that it was made with Bombay Sapphire Gin and some other poison, i wondered if it might be a bit on the heady side, but i was pleasantly surprised – with fruity notes enhanced by the gin and with a couple of lychee popped in, this was one awesome cocktail! i just wish i had gone ahead and ordered one more! 🙂

but wait, i haven’t started talking about the pizza yet! with a soft thin crust and crackling, puffy edges, that features gourmet-style toppings, each pizza on the menu is drool-worthy! 🙂 you can choose between ‘skinny’ and ‘not-so-skinny’ crusts, and if in doubt, ask the waiter to recommend one that would suit your choice of toppings.  i opted for the ‘Wild Truffled Mushroom’ with a not-so-skinny base. i wish i could describe to you in detail, but i can’t. i could tell you the pizza was like a gourmet mushroom sandwich on a thin, soft base with crackling edges that added a little crunch. i could add that each bite was sheer pleasure. that even someone like me (who doesn’t usually crave

mushrooms) was made a convert after that pizza. and that i am ready to swear off the thick bread that is touted by pizza chains. would saying all that give you any idea of just how good it was?

no, i doubt you would really ever get what a wonderful meal i had. so here’s the deal: just go. order the cocktail, the brie, the fries, the pizza. and eat! 🙂

wait, i didn’t tell you about dessert, did i? just fyi, i ended the meal on a awesome note with a pastry made with ice nougat – sheer heaven! 🙂

*Photos courtesy of Skinny Pizza (http://www.facebook.com/skinnypizza)

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Veganburg, Singapore

29 Jan

Singapore, Jan 2012

i am back in Singapore – my hometown of 16 years – for a 2-week visit. its a wonderful feeling to be back, especially since Singapore is foodie haven. there are tons – and i mean tons – of choices, from hawker-centre fare to fine dining. if you love food, Singapore will spoil you 🙂 and vegetarians never need fear lack of choice – even within the pool of vegetarian restaurants, you have some that offer mock-meat based dishes, some that are totally plant-based and vegan, some that use onion and garlic, and others that don’t. and did i mention that each of them offers a unique selection of choices, from Southeast Asian to Western food? tempting eh? 🙂

Veganburg is one such vegan restaurant that serves – as its name so obviously suggests – vegan burgers. the place was started to offer earth-friendly, healthy food alternatives to the regular (meat) burgers. everything served here – down to the sauces – are dairy and egg-free. there are some burgers that are onion-free as well for strict vegetarians. i’d heard of this place maybe about a year or so back when someone posted about it on Facebook, but never got a chance to visit it. the other day, i was free for lunch and wondering where to go – when i chanced upon Veganburg again through an online search. my choice was made.

a 7-minute walk away from Eunos MRT, Veganburg is a cheery little restaurant that is chic yet comfortable. with white  accents dominating the decor – from the tiles to the rustic-looking furniture, and plants adding a spot of colour, the ambiance is perfect for a relaxed lunch or afternoon snack. their staff are friendly and attentive, and make it a point to tell you of the time it will take for your burger to be prepared. i ordered the ‘cracked pepper mayo’ burger, and made it a combo-meal with seaweed shaker fries and orange-passionfruit juice. while i waited, i flipped through one of the magazines (kept in compartments under the tables) and watched the world go by. after a while, i got my burger and fries served in a cute, square tin container with a handle – something i have never seen before, but which adds quirky charm to the place.

on to the food. the burger was sandwiched in a ciabatta bun baked with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts pieces. the patty had a chewy, meaty texture, but didn’t have the overpowering soy taste that some mock-meats tend to have. the mayo was light, fresh and slightly tangy, with the pepper adding flavour. topped with fresh lettuce, the burger was extremely tasty, but light on the stomach. the orange-passionfruit juice was full of flavour and made me perk up from first sip! i did wish that they had added more seaweed flavour/flakes to the fries, which didn’t seem very different from regular fries. i also tried the smoky vegan franks, asking for mayo on the side to go with it. the franks had the obvious texture and taste of soy-based mock-meat, but the added smoky flavour makes it tasty.

i relished my meal until the last bite, and when i got up to leave, i was feeling replete 🙂 i do hope to go back and try some of their other burgers – especially the ‘hawaiian pineapple’ or ‘char-grilled’ satay! 🙂 and every time i am back in Singapore, Veganburg will be one of must-visit places for lunch. and if you tried their burgers, you would probably agree 🙂

*Photos courtesy of Veganburg (http://www.veganburg.com and http://www.facebook.com/veganburg)

Benjarong, Chennai, India

15 Jan

Chennai, Jan 2012

it seems to me that the universe is being particularly kind when it comes to satisfying my foodie cravings. if not, how else do you explain the fact that just a few days after raving about how much i love thai food to one friend, another friend suggests that we visit this awesome place called Benjarong for ‘thai dinner night’? i love thee, my personal foodie guardian angel! 🙂

if you have not visited Benjarong before, you might do the same thing i did and miss seeing it. located along TTK road next to French Loaf Bakery, the restaurant is tucked away from the main road. when you reach, there is valet parking, so you don’t have to fuss about having to park the vehicle in the limited space.

unlike some fine-dining restaurants i have been to, Benjarong doesn’t awe you with size. ‘quaint’ is the word that comes to my mind when i see the not-so-tall wooden doors adorned with a welcoming thai statue, that open up into a beautifully decorated space. soft yellow lights accentuate the rich brown of the furniture, the wall paintings and a small reclining buddha that catches my fancy. the tables do seem to be placed a little close to each other, but once we were seated, there was no sense of overcrowding.

right after we were given the menus, a waiter brought us a plate set with some basil leaves and little cups filled with assorted ingredients – shredded sweet coconut, peanuts, cut red chillies, small cubes of yellow lime, bits of onion, and a nut-like substance i don’t know the name of. in the center was a bowl with thick, ebony-coloured sweet sauce. i followed my friend’s example, and made a one-bite salad, using a basil leaf piled with a bit of each ingredient (minus the red chilly) and a drop of sauce, and popped the whole thing in my mouth – and boy, was it amazing! 🙂 sweet, tangy, pungent – all together in miniscule proportions underlined by the fresh, earthy taste of basil! it was a wonderful start, and whetted our appetites for the meal to follow.

by this time, i had high hopes for the food. we began with tofu satay – sticks of rectangular tofu coated with spices and then grilled, and served with thick, spicy peanut sauce. it was sheer pleasure in every bite, evidenced the fact that we practically wiped the sauce bowl clean with bits of tofu! 🙂 then came the main courses – green curry (served with rice) and phad thai phak (flat noodles tossed with veges and spices). the green curry was wonderfully replete with coconut milk and signature thai spices that left a tingle on my taste buds. the phad thai phak was moderately spicy with the tossed veges adding a nice crunch to the dish. the portions are generous, so sharing is welcome! we were also served lemongrass tea, which is a mild drink with a very subtle hint of the spice – this was the first time i was trying it, and found it to be a nice addition to the meal.

Benjarong is perfect for a special dinner with friends or family. the food is excellent, the ambience is beautiful, and the waiters are extremely courteous and attentive without being intrusive. my only grouse about the evening was that we were too full to try out the desserts – but hey, there will always be a next time! 🙂

*Photos courtesy of Benjarong (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Benjarong)

Ecstasy – Mickaël Besse, (Satyam Cinemas), Chennai, India

24 Nov

Chennai, Sept 2011

there is something very soul-satisfying about good dessert. you may have the best seven-course meal, but end it with  less than satisfying dessert, and i am sure your happiness will be short-lived. to make a good dessert requires a whole host of things – creativity, taste (aesthetic and sensory), and a lot of dedication. from putting together complementary ingredients to deciding on the best manner in which it can be presented, dessert-making is an art for connoisseurs.

so, even though i have never met Mickaël Besse, i think the man is a true connoisseur.

my first impression of Ecstasy, as i sneaked a peek through its glass doors, was just how out of place it seemed in a cinema complex (now, you must understand this was before i went to ID – which made it clear that Satyam was trying out something different). chic, clean lines dominated the largely white interiors, which were enlivened by classic touches and a display of tempting desserts at the other end. from the choice of colours to furnishings to the chandelier made of little post-its from fans, this place makes you feel like you slipped through a little time-place crack and landed in a dessert parlour in Paris.

but then again, what are good interiors when the focus is on the desserts?

my chance to sample the just-mentioned came after dinner one day. a cousin owed me a treat for something and he suggested the place. even at first glance, the desserts display is impressive. beautifully arrayed confections, made from tempting combinations of chocolate, coffee and fruit competed for attention. the impressive thing is that they also have options that are eggless, for strict vegetarians. i tried the ‘liqourice raspberry tartlet’, which featured an almond shortcrust pastry filled with raspberry and liquorice ganache, and was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. i spent a good two minutes just looking at the tart, feeling sad that i wanted to eat it. but eat it i did. and well, i learnt why a good dessert can be a soul-satisfying experience.

from then on, i always try to wrangle a visit to Ecstasy when i am in the area – with the sole purpose of trying out all their desserts. i have gone as far as ‘Flak’ (milk chocolate mousse with chocolate glaze) and the ‘Blueberry Cheesecake’ (self explanatory, i think!). each time i have been there, it is a hard choice – especially since there are rows of perfect chocolates that catch the corner of my eye as well. and unlike an ice cream sundae, savouring these desserts is not something related to quantity. it’s about relishing the flavour and texture of the chosen dessert to its fullest. one at a time.

so i choose. and indulge. and then understand why the establishment was so aptly named for the special happiness we experience after eating the perfect dessert. 🙂 (and also why it is as addictive as the drug that shares its name!)

*Photos courtesy of Ecstasy  (http://www.facebook.com/pastriesatsathyamcinemas)

ID (Sathyam Cinemas), Chennai, India

30 Oct

Chennai, Aug 2011

the first thing i noticed when i entered ID was a photograph on the wall that showed the changing phases of the moon – from full moon to new moon. something was different though, and it took me a couple of seconds to realise that it was made of rava idlis!

i think you would have guessed by now that ID – although it serves idli, vada and other south indian tiffin items – is not your typical udupi restaurant.

located with the sathyam cinema complex, ID is a top-priority foodie landmark for those who live in chennai. luckily, you are free to visit the restaurant whether or not you are going to watch a movie at sathyam – and from what i recall, i have made more trips to the cinema complex to eat! 🙂

ID is not a very big restaurant, but whoever did the interiors made sure that space has been cleverly utilised. the teppanyaki-style kitchen with granite counter tops in the centre with white bar-stools around offers a direct view of the vadas as they fry merrily, or of the dosa- and appam being deftly shaped into perfect circles, a few minutes before they find their way to your plate. of course, there are tables and chairs all around, but would you really want to miss a piece of the action?

once you are seated, you are given the menu, a small rectangular card with curved edges that looks like a bookmark – i actually wanted to take home one of them ‘cos they looked so cute! there is one cuisine – regular south Indian tiffin items such as idlis, vadas, appam and dosas with complementing sides. each of these is sold by piece, and you can keep ordering as and when you want. once you have placed your initial order, the table is set with square metal plates, and cups of accompanying chutney, sambar or other sides. as soon as the food is prepared, it is brought to your plate, piping hot.

tuck in – and before you know it, you have had your fill with a sample of almost item on the menu. i mean, how could you say ‘no’ to the tempting appam with ullithiyal (a spicy gravy made with shallots) or the golden dosa with white coconut chutney, or the crisp vadas that call to be dunked into sambar? and isn’t it natural to want to round off the meal with a cup of filter coffee? if you have a sweet tooth, you could also order a cup of chakra pongal (rice sweetened with jaggery)! 🙂 no, you really can’t say no!

if you are coming to ID, come with an appetite. and if you are really up for it, a movie ticket. 🙂

*Photos courtesy of ID (www.facebook.com/IDSATHYAMCINEMAS)

Azzuri Bay, Chennai, India

2 Oct

Chennai, July 2011

authenticity is a hard thing to recreate – especially when it comes to food. to lay claim to making any cuisine – italian, thai, western, italian, etc – is one thing. but to make it so well that it makes you stop after the first mouthful, and then regard the food with more reverence – ah, now that takes talent! but i am getting ahead of myself. let me start at the beginning

my first visit to Azzuri Bay was with two new friends. in a very interesting coincidence, it was sheer chemistry at first sight – with the friends and the restaurant! 🙂 the restaurant is located atop Crimson Chakra (which i have yet to visit). as you walk though the compound entrance, a serene Buddha sitting in a fountain greets you. take the lift and head to the second floor and you find yourself in a medium-size space that’s been tastefully done up in classic dark wood and off-white tones, with the overhead wooden ceiling beams and wood flooring lending it a vintage touch. go one more level up and you find yourself in a beautiful open terrace, which is flanked by a Buddha statue and a mural at the entrance, and another space enclosed by glass windows on the other. with squarish paper lamps, wine glasses and white napkins, the rustic tables are set beautifully – making you feel at once feel that you are in a place that is classy yet comfortable.

deciding to go with a mix of asian and italian, we ordered some satay and fried wantons for starters, and green curry and lasagna for the mains (all veg). when the satay arrived with peanut sauce, i hesitated before dipping into it. over my past few months in India, i have fallen prey to imitation versions that look similar, but fail to match in taste. i was in for a surprise! the peanut sauce was the closest i have tasted to the original versions i have relished in Singapore. granted, it was not as thick, but that was of no consequence. furthermore, they had served little blocks of rice with the satay – another true-blue Southeast Asian culinary tradition. the ground chilli paste which was served with the fried starters was another surprise – rich chilli blended with hints of lemongrass, garlic and other spices that made me go weak at my knees 🙂 i later found out that the owner (a very friendly dude named Hari Narayan) had spent some part of his life in Southeast Asia.

needless to say, our expectations were heightened by this time, and we were well rewarded with our main courses. the Thai green curry was near perfect with the right amount of coconut milk, veges and spices. the lasagna featured al dente pasta sheets with mixed vegetables and cheese coming together in a mouth-watering amalgam. (another time, i tried their bruschetta – and i had an equally good time eating it! :)) what i liked best about the food was the tendency to stick to what the originals are like – no unnecessary fusion of Indian spices here. the portions are fairly good – and make it worth the while to share. by the end of the dinner, we were one happy lot 🙂 i heard that they have introduced wood-fired pizzas recently, and i haven’t yet tried their desserts – all the most reason for another visit, or two!

overall Azzuri Bay ticked a lot of boxes for me. the classic decor and zen touches make it my first choice of venue for important dinners or events; the food is excellent; and the service even better. the price range does trail on the higher side, it is in standing with the levels charged with similar restaurants in the city. personally, i would say it is worth it. you can spend an evening over a cosy dinner for two, or a more jolly gathering with more – either way, you can be sure you will have a fantastic time! 🙂

*Photos courtesy of Azzuri Bay (www.facebook.com/AzzuriBay)

Chaipatty Teafe, Bangalore, India

6 Sep

Bangalore, July 2011

i was standing outside a store that sells household stuff, with my 3-year-old niece, waiting for my cousin sis to finish picking up some stuff for her new house. it was about 4.30 and – given that i had had a long day – wanted to head home and sleep. but my sis had other plans – “let’s go and have tea,” she said chirpily. i murmured something to the tune that we could go home and have tea, but she was insistent. “you will definitely like the place i am going to take you to! come!”

so, we piled into an auto and headed for 100-feet road. we soon stopped outside a small cafe called Chaipatty Teafe (made from

“cafe” and “tea” – get it?). a cafe that was very different-looking one from any i had seen. did i say ‘small’? i should change that to cosy. a cheery little space with short rattan

stools, cushions and rugs scattered around, the place had the feel of being in a university mate’s pad, albeit in a half-built appartment. there were some folks sitting around, having tea in terracotta cups (which are called kullads) and snacks. on one end of the Teafe was the counter and kitchen, and at the other was a shelf with assorted terracotta wares – from small jewellery to cups to decorative pieces.

at first sight, i loved it! 🙂

this is the kind of place you could spend hours in, lazily sipping your tea and talking to your friend, or even just reading your book. what makes it even better is the bangalore weather – generally cool, sometimes even dipping into cold. after the overtly done-up decor of cafe coffee days and spluttering ACs in base-town chennai, this was a refreshing change. and to match its decor, the food is good stuff – chai made just the way i like it (not too strong, not too milky), and an assortment of spicy and sweet things to choose from. i tried the cheese balls and brownie (which was called a cakelet, i think) with just regular kullad chai. and like the icing on the cake (the masala in the chai?), the service staff are friendly and helpful – they even helped us choose what to eat.

good indian tea, some muchies, and possibly a good book in hand – that’s what i am thinking for the next time i am in bangalore. 🙂

*Photos courtesy of Chaipatty Teafe (www.facebook.com/chaipatty)

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