O’Parl Cafe At The Arts House: BEST SALMON EVER!!!

When my more Groupon-savvy half buys food-related Groupon vouchers, it can either be a great hit or a really awful miss. This time, we struck culinary jackpot with awesome salmon at O’Parl Cafe Bar & Bistro that is located within ‘The Arts House at The Old Parliament’. The yummy dinner set the tone for an enjoyable Friday date night.🙂

It was our first visit to O’Parl Cafe so we were keen on sticking to the “Chef’s Recommendations” on the menu. SO… we went with a starter of Spicy Basil Prawns, and he picked the Seafood Laksa Pasta – both Chef Recommendation items.

O'Parl Cafe Arts House Old Parliament

This picture doesn’t do justice to the food – I was hungry, and the lighting wasn’t the best for picture-taking so I didn’t bother with taking too many shots. You should go to O’Parl Cafe yourself and try the food there!🙂 The prawns were fresh and utterly delicious. #ForgetAboutThePricetag

I wanted to try the Grilled Seabass instead of the recommended Fish & Chips (because, well, F&C is F&C no matter how fancy the setting, ya?) but the Grilled Seabass wasn’t available. So I settled for Pan Seared Salmon instead.

O'Parl Cafe Pan Seared Salmon

And my goodness! Never in my life have I tasted salmon that (to quote MasterChefs and LadyIronChef) was so “well executed”. Crispy skin outside, and tender, almost-buttery salmon within. How does one pan sear salmon so well? Was it done sous vide then seared quickly? I guess I’ll never know. And the mash was served really warm and it hits just the right spot in one’s belly, like a good bowl of steaming hot soup would. I wish I knew what that sauce by the side was – spicy like sambal belachan yet with some nutty texture and fragrance to it. All in all, perfect.

I sure did enjoy the dish. Yum. Yum. Yum. Best salmon ever. I really have to head back there again soon.

If you need a recommendation for a dinner venue that looks atas but isn’t too crowded (such that you don’t need to make a prior reservation), and where the food is superb, O’Parl Cafe is my pick. Here’s the menu ( I hope the print isn’t too small )…

O'Parl Cafe Menu

You can also play a game of darts here. I was simply too full after the meal. Love that they serve (free) water.

O’Parl Cafe is located at 1 Old Parliament Lane. Tel: 6255 6048.

Olivia & Co at Sengkang’s Compass One

olivia and co singapore review

I’ve been to Sengkang Compass One a couple of times lately to check out its eateries that do not have outlets at Waterway Point.🙂 Olivia & Co is one such restaurant, or bistro if you’d like. Dining there before noon on a weekday is GREAT as you can have your pick of any table.

Here’s what I enjoyed about dining at Olivia & Co:

#1: Really good ambiance – very cosy and inviting

I think ladies will really love this place as a venue for catching up over quick bites and drinks. Guys might also enjoy the section that has a TV – watch your football matches here!

I guess this is why two ladies decided to meet here this afternoon. They sat at the table next to mine – and the one carrying a baby had a little mishap. More about that later in this blogpost.

Olivia and Co Sengkang

FREE water!😀 Always a plus point. And each table has a buzzer for you to press to get the attention of service staff.

#2: Good customer service, though not from the entire crew

When I first walked past the outlet in the morning (while I was not feeling hungry yet), I decided to stop and peruse the menu. One of their staff just stood there and (kind of) glumly stared at me, waiting to see if I’d like to take a seat. I was actually the one to offer a greeting first. Decided to do my shopping elsewhere in the mall before coming back for an early lunch.

When I returned, she was less glum – I attribute this to the fact that she’s probably not too comfortable with speaking English, preferring to speak in Mandarin to her colleague – and I got my choice of table and managed to get a confirmation from her that my order of their Black Forest Burger would come with fries (as it’s not clearly stated on the menu).

While I was eating, I observed that the other female wait staff was more friendly and welcoming. She’d give people a cheery greeting even if they were simply looking at the menu outside the restaurant. She also refilled my glass with water, asking before she did so too! After she got me the bill, she also took the time to explain that there’s an ongoing promotion in which I can get a lucky draw chance at winning a 2D1N staycation if I accumulate a spending of S$50 with a maximum of 3 receipts. Wow. I found out that her name is Maureen. I was impressed enough to send an email to Olivia & Co when I got home.🙂 Staff like her are hard to find. I sure hope she gets a bonus or promotion.

And here’s what I’d like to see from the restaurant / bistro the next time I dine here:

#1: Sturdier chairs

A mother (carrying her baby in a sling in front) took a seat opposite her friend at the table next to mine. For some reason, the chair slid backwards and the mother and child ended up on the floor. Thankfully, they were fine. I’m not sure if the chair was too light, the flooring too smooth, or if the mother hadn’t positioned her bum just right, but it was pretty shocking to see her “seated” on the floor in the blink of an eye.

If it was an elderly person with brittle bones, I’m not sure what would have happened. I’ve already sent my feedback to Olivia & Co, so hopefully something changes.

Olivia and co review

#2: Better burgers

I ordered the Black Forest Burger but ended up liking the side of fries more. It’s no Omakase Burger for sure, but I think improvements can be made to the beef patty which crumbles too easily. Love the tempura mushrooms though.

I thought I saw that there would be some sauteed mushrooms as well. But the product served didn’t seem to reflect what was stated on the menu. I might be wrong; will check the next time I’m there.

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Olivia and Co Compass One

If you’re wondering why a restaurant would place a vehicle right at the entrance, taking up precious ‘prime’ space which could possibly fit another table and 4 chairs, well, I found out there’s likely a good reason for it.

A mother pushing a pram with two kids was ‘directed’ to Olivia and Co. by the young ones, who wanted a go at the “ride”. They’d thought it was one of those kiddy rides that can be found in almost any mall!😀 Too bad this time the mother gave the menu a glance and decided to head elsewhere. I’m sure others would have gone right in and snapped some photos, just like I did.😀

Olivia & Co is located at #01-13 Compass One. Tel: 6384 4995.

Frunatic: Possibly The Most Nutritious 9-Course Meal Ever

Frunatic Singapore

I had a really good meal with my pal a few months’ back and by ‘good’, I mean super nutritious. And you’ll see just why in a bit. It’s not often that I have a meal that was designed by a nutritionist.😀 Frunatic usually works with companies such as major beauty brands and designs lifestyle retreats for them, but individuals can also drop by for special therapeutic wellness meals (Detoxifying, Anti-fatigue, Weight Management, Athletic Sport Performance, etc). And my pal could certainly use a lifestyle retreat simply for looking severely underweight just standing next to me! Ha! Little did I know that this meal wouldn’t add on the pounds for me either, consisting of about 700 calories only. And it WAS a 9-course meal. However, this nutrient-dense meal was enough to get us sailing through the week.

Let me take you through what we ate that day:Frunatic Amuse Bouche

First up was the Amuse Bouche, which is a complimentary dish served by a restaurant for any particular day. Just a quick bite, with hints of what’s to come…

Next, we had some 200ml of Longevity Herbal Tea. It contains 8 ingredients: wolfberries, red dates, chrysanthemum, rose, ginseng, dried longan, green tea and licorice that’s brewed with alkaline ionized water. I know that alkaline water is great for the body, and all those other ingredients just make it pack more of a punch. It’s nothing like the sugary bottled ‘herbal tea’ I’ve purchased from shops. It was an eye-opening experience: so this is what herbal tea can taste like! Or rather, what it should taste like.

Frunatic Longevity Herbal Tea

Then there’s the Tropical Energizing Smoothie – the smallest serving of a smoothie that I’ve ever had – which contains mango and banana with a hint of cinnamon and ginger. If you usually enjoy your smoothies in large cups like I do, then here’s the bad news: you’re possibly ingesting too many calories. I usually add lots of mango and avocado into my smoothies, and it’s only at Frunatic that I found out that, oops, too many calories.

Frunatic Tropical Energizing Smoothie

The Southwest Tofu Scramble features heirloom tomatoes and brown mushroom stuffed with a combination of red onion, red bell pepper, tofu and turmeric sauce. Turmeric is a spice with lots of health benefits such as its anti-inflammatory properties. And if you’ve not noticed yet, what’s being served is largely vegetarian / vegan and in small portions. What I learnt here is to eat a variety of food in small portions each so I get all the nutrients my body needs without getting an excess of calories.🙂

Frunatic Southwest Tofu Scramble

And here’s something you might be familiar with: cold-pressed juice. They call this the “Green Punch Juice“. I’m not sure why people go ga-ga over juice cleanses in which a company sends over a batch of juice and you slowly consume it over 5 days, perhaps. Cold-pressed juices should be consumed immediately for maximum benefit. Don’t let it oxidize or ferment! Frunatic’s Green Punch Juice is made from green pepper, kiwi, green apple and peppermint. Do ask them about the special powders they include, prepared by a naturopath.

Frunatic Green Punch Juice

Probably the highlight of the meal: Matcha Truffles with Raspberry Surprise. More surprising was my eating just one ‘truffle’. I usually pop a few.😀 Inside each truffle ball is a mix of almonds, cashews, coconut, dates and raw cacao. It’s almost like an energy bar, no? It’s then coated in matcha. To vary texture and taste, there’s a yummy raspberry center, which you’ll see in the following picture…

Frunatic Matcha Truffles with Raspberry Surprise

Frunatic Pineapple Dill

Yup, they weren’t kidding. There is indeed a raspberry surprise. And by the way, the dehydrated pineapple chip tastes SO GOOD. A pity it wasn’t sold by the bag when I visited. But I did send them feedback that they should, so maybe now you can pop by and get a bag of these yummy fruit chips that are so, so healthy. The process of making these chips is a tedious one. Depending on whether you are using a dehydrator or an oven, making chips out of fruit can take anywhere from 8 to 24 hours.

And if you’re wondering about the price of the meal, well, for $128 nett, you get a “Michelin-style” dining experience, complete with a nutritionist explaining what goes into the food you’re eating. It’s quite interesting, really, as it’s usually the chef who does the explaining.

And here’s the Chef Special: Quinoa Beetroot Risotto

Frunatic Quinoa Beetroot Risotto

This particular risotto has dehydrated baby beetroot, tri-colored quinoa, cauliflower, truffle mushroom and carrots. Wild rice and quinoa are high in protein, and the carrots provide a natural sweetness to the dish. And that sauce by the side? It’s a therapeutic sauce featuring vinegar which has been aged for 8 years. Apparently this dish will help in athletic performance as the ingredients used actually help ‘increase the time needed to reach exhaustion’. I’m not too concerned about athletic performance per se, I just want low-calorie good-tasting meals that can help me lose weight!😀

And finally, there’s the Pumpkin Flan. It’s a vegan dessert made from pumpkin juice, cashew, ground cinnamon and topped with crunchy-buckwheat brittle and hazelnuts. I love pumpkin, but didn’t know that pumpkin juice has electrolytes, calcium, potassium, magnesium and all that goodness. With a nutritionist explaining what goes into each dish, you will learn nuggets of information such as how there’s synergy between Vitamin C and zinc.🙂

Frunatic Pumpkin Flan

I love the concept of being able to sit down to a 9-course meal without leaving the table feeling as if my stomach is about to burst (such as at wedding dinners)😀 As the food here is largely vegan in nature, it’s light and wholesome at the same time. I’ve also heard that some wealthy entrepreneurs come here regularly for meals that help them maintain their weight, blood pressure or blood sugar at optimal levels. If you so desire, you can also get the meals delivered to you, sans nutritionist, of course.😉

To find out more about Frunatic, head over to their website at http://www.frunatic.com.

Sakana at Waterway Point: Order the Salmon Sashimi Don and DESSERT!

Sakana Waterway Point

Since Sakana opened at Waterway Point, I’ve always wanted to visit. It looks like the kind of Japanese restaurant I’d enjoy dining at. Having visited twice in less than a week, yup, I was right. You’d hardly think that a Japanese restaurant would serve good dessert with toast but they do!🙂 And in this post, I’ll share with you what to order when you’re at Sakana…

Sakana Waterway Point

If you have a sweet tooth, definitely order the Mango Shibuya Toast. And even if you’re feeling greedy / hungry, don’t get one for yourself. It’s for sharing! If you’ve had a full meal with friends or family, just order one to share among 3 or 4 pax.

Sakana Mango Shibuya Toast

If you don’t like overly sweet dessert and you’re a fan of matcha, then go for the Matcha Shibuya Toast. The restaurant is too generous with the red beans.😀

Sakana Matcha Shibuya Toast

As for the mains, I highly recommend the Salmon Sashimi Don. Firstly, it’s so pretty! We ‘feast’ first with our eyes, don’t we? There’s another Japanese – Western fusion restaurant nearby that served up a really ugly sashimi don for me previously and I just had to send the restaurant some feedback. Here, taste-wise, it’s good too, and that wasabi packs a punch, in case you are wondering why it’s just one small dollop. You might feel your eyes beginning to water and your nose tingle if you eat too much of this wasabi at once. (@_@)

Sakana Salmon Sashimi Don and Lychee Zing

And the drink behind the bowl? That’s their Lychee Zing which my pal ordered. Served with a umbrella and a syringe. Apparently, there’s some kind of syrup within the syringe and you’re supposed to ‘inject’ it into the drink. When she’d picked up the syringe, one of Sakana’s male staff hurried over and tried to stop her – apparently you’re supposed to keep the syringe ‘underwater’ before you release the syrup. Otherwise it’ll squirt all over you. The staff told us that unfortunately happened to another customer recently. Hmm. I wonder why the person who served the drink didn’t warn us.

Anyway, here’s the salmon sashimi don I ordered on another occasion. It’s equally pretty. I like when standards are consistent.🙂

Sakana Salmon Sashimi Don

My sis ordered their hotplate beef cubes, which came with rice and miso soup. I thought it was rather odd that there were fries too. Let’s just say this isn’t a low carb meal. So if you’re on a diet, well, order something else. The beef could do with a bit more seasoning and truth be told, ordering beef in a restaurant called Sakana (which means ‘fish’ in Japanese) is not exactly the smartest decision. Haha! Order their fish!!!

Sakana Hotplate Beef Cubes

If you’re going to have a meal at Sakana and you already have set your eyes on having dessert there too, then maybe you might want to give the drinks a miss as they look like they have quite a few calories in there too.

My skinny pal ordered the Hojicha Caramel Macchiato, and well he should since he’s skinny and can handle the extra calories.😀 Look at that whipped cream😀

Sakana Hojicha Caramel Macchiato

And this is their Matcha Azuki Shiratama Latte. It doesn’t look like it’s for one person.

Sakana Matcha Azuki Shiratama Latte

I’m just a little disappointed that the restaurant doesn’t serve (free) water. You can purchase bottled water from them. The desserts are sweet, the drinks are sweet, and without water, it can seem a little overwhelming. Hence, I skip the drinks when I dine here. Maybe the restaurant can earn some money by charging for water, but perhaps they’d earn more if people order these drinks knowing that they can ask for some free iced water when it gets too sweet for their tastebuds. *shrug*

That said, I know I’ll be back for their Salmon Sashimi Don and Mango Shibuya Toast. There’s this pretty cool tea time promotion for the dessert and drinks so anyone who heads there with me can have the drink on my behalf!😀

Sakana is located at #01-25 of Waterway Point.

Alps Cafe: Good Food, Drinks And FREE KTV!

Alps Cafe

Located along Prinsep Street is a ‘bistro and tapas bar’ called Alps Cafe. It’s one of those ‘hidden gems’ for KTV that I wouldn’t know about if my friends don’t bring me there. And apparently, it’s celebrating its 10th anniversary this year! The main draws: good food and drinks, darts bar and FREE karaoke! And oh, if you watch football, there’s live EPL entertainment too!🙂

The boss of Alps Cafe also runs a Japanese restaurant at Mohamed Sultan Road and a number of stalls in foodcourts. Alps Cafe thus has Japanese food items on their menu – I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you visit. *wink* The place looks ‘cosy’ from outside, among a row of shophouses, but when you walk right in you’ll realize it’s a good size for a bar: there’s alfresco dining right after the entrance, followed by a darts bar in the middle where you can also watch football, get drinks and sit around the tables, and then there’s the section at the end where patrons have food, drinks, and indulge in an open karaoke session (each table gets two songs at each turn).

Alps Cafe Karaoke

Located among other shophouses is Alps Cafe!🙂

Alps Cafe Darts Bar

Seating area on the left where you can wait for your turn while other patrons play a game of darts!

Alps Cafe Prinsep Street

Tip: Head to Alps Cafe before the crowd arrives every evening and you can indulge in a karaoke marathon!😀

When I visit a place for the first time, I’m happy to let my (experienced) pals order the food, or I’ll ask the staff for their top recommendations. My pal said the Chicken Rollato ($25) is his favorite at Alps Cafe but alas, it wasn’t available when we visited. He therefore ordered their chicken chop and I asked for recommendations for the rest of the items we ordered. I asked Jess, who works there, what she’d recommend if I’m going for a pizza (preferably Hawaiian), and she recommended a half-and-half pizza with Smoked Duck and Bacon & Egg. I thought it was a great idea, except I really wanted a Hawaiian pizza so I decided to swap the smoked duck for it. Haha!

Alps Cafe Chicken Chop

My pal’s order of chicken chop🙂

Also, Jess recommended Fish Fingers which was NOT on the menu (yay!) and it tasted really good – eat it immediately when it’s served. I love how it doesn’t taste oily at all, and just the sweet chili sauce dip is enough to complement the crispy-outside-tender-inside ‘fish fingers’. Actually, all of us thought it might be calamari when it was served. But it was fish, no doubt.😀

Alps Cafe Fish Fingers

A portion of pizza… and the fish fingers!

I thought the Stuffed Mushrooms ($14) were delightful, mainly because there was so much cheese on top – melted cheese as well as cheese sprinkled on top. I could have eaten all 8 of them myself!

Alps Cafe Stuffed Mushrooms

As for the drinks, I went with Jess’ recommendation of a fruity iced tea (which I loved) and I also picked Lychee Martini. The Lychee Martini at Alps Cafe comes with two lychees and tastes quite ‘strong’ – alcohol lovers (especially ladies) will like this one!

Alps Cafe Lychee Martini

As the pizza and bar bites were delicious, with our appetites whet, we decided to share a final course of seafood aglio olio ($20) – 3 mussels, 3 prawns, and pasta with a generous amount of chili padi that’s not for the faint-hearted. Yum! It’s definitely worth ordering again.

Alps Cafe Seafood Aglio Olio

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The next time I visit, I’ll try the Japanese food on their menu. There are 20 items including ones like Grilled Stingray Fin ($15) and Grilled Puffer Fish ($18). If you’ve tried these, drop me a note and let me know!

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I enjoyed the dining + singing experience at Alps Cafe as it’s so different from your regular karaoke hangout in which you pay for a certain number of hours and then try to sing as much as you can before the time is up. At Alps Cafe, you can stay till they close and sing your heart out each time it’s your turn (if you head there early in the evening, you might get the entire place to yourself!). And the food is good so you’ll likely have dinner there too!

As I’m an absolute newbie when it comes to darts, I was quite happy to pick some darts out of a box for some free dart ‘practice’. If you do pay, you’ll get your scores tallied on the screen above so go ahead and challenge a friend!😀

FYI, Alps Cafe is open daily from 5pm to 1am on weekdays but on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays, it’s open till 3am! Time to jio your KTV kakis for a fun night out with good food and drinks assured!

You can also book the venue for events like birthdays, gatherings, and other celebrations🙂

Address: 38 Prinsep Street

Tel: 6333 9068

Tuk Tuk Cha Replaces Squeezed! At Waterway Point

Tuk Tuk Cha Waterway Point

Last week, I walked past what was originally the Squeezed! outlet at Waterway Point to find that it had been boarded up and soon Tuk Tuk Cha will take its place. I remember ordering many cups of juice from Squeezed some 7 months ago as they were running a promotion on Groupon. When the promotion ended, it seemed like the crowd stopped visiting too. And now they’ve been replaced by Tuk Tuk Cha. The latter seems to be expanding pretty fast all over Singapore. I’m not sure if they have done their homework or are super confident that they’ll be able to compete with Koi which is located just a few metres away and which almost always has a queue…

Koi Waterway Point

Why Squeezed!’s Closing Matters:

  1. Squeezed left before a year is up. Does Waterway Point’s management allow for flexible lease arrangements? Or did Squeezed simply decide to cut losses and leave?
  2. It’s not about the cost. Cold-pressed juices are expensive? Not really, if you compare them with some of Koi’s beverages – I’m fond of Yakult Green Tea with konjac jelly, by the way. A large cup costs me around S$6. So it’s not really about the money. Taste-wise, about 5 of Squeezed’s creations have my vote but somehow I never felt like returning after their Groupon promo was over.
  3. Promotions must be on an ongoing basis. I think one reason Waterway Point is so popular is because of the many promotions that they run all the time. There’s always something fun for people to visit the mall: movie ticket giveaways, children and family activities, lots of atrium fairs, etc. Squeezed did their opening promo and Groupon promo and that was it, I guess. And when deciding whether to get bubble tea from Koi (which is busy most of the time) or to get juice from Squeezed (which doesn’t usually have a queue), it seems people gravitate to queues. Call it social proof if you will. I think people want to have what everyone else is having too.

And besides, at Waterway Point’s Basement 2 you’ll find a fruit juice stall as well as another one that sells mainly coconut water. And oh… there’s GongCha too! Spoiled for choice are us Punggolians. I’m waiting to see how Tuk Tuk Cha will fare…😉

Slappy Cakes: Restaurant For Pancake Lovers To Play With Their Food

Slappy Cakes The Grandstand

Thanks to my pal, Steven, I’m already a fan of Dancing Crab at The Grandstand (Turf Club Road). Now, thanks to my neighbors, I’m also a fan of Slappy Cakes which is located just below Dancing Crab (the two are linked by a staircase, and served by the same staff). I believe Tung Lok Group brought in the Slappy Cake franchise from Portland. There’s also another Slappy Cakes outlet at RWS but I’ve not been to that one yet. Apparently, it’s next to Universal Studios (keep an eye out for it the next time you visit *wink*) Before reaching Slappy Cakes, I’d thought that it’d just be yet another place for pancakes (which may or may not taste good) and if there are any non-pancake items on the menu, they would probably not be very good. Oops! Thankfully, I was wrong.😀

I made only one of these pancakes. The rest were done by my neighbor…

Slappy Cakes pancakes

I made the ‘Hello Kitty’ pancake and my neighbor is ‘Mr Bojio’. Did you guess correctly?😀 *There’s a trick to creating these pancakes… you have to do everything in reverse, i.e. write the words or draw the facial features first before adding on the ‘background’

I like that the restaurant offers free wifi (look out for the username and password on sheets pasted on the walls). However, the ‘pan’ in the middle of the table takes up A LOT of space. The tables really should be bigger, especially if people are expected to order mains, and make pancakes for ‘dessert’.

 Slappy Cakes Bukit Timah

Each bottle of pancake batter costs S$8.50 before tax. It’s kinda pricey. Choose from Buttermilk (we heard it’s bland), Whole Grain, Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Pandan. You can see our choices above. We also had add-ons of banana for $1.50 (the kiddo likes it), roasted mushrooms ($2), and maple syrup ($3).

I made some chocolate (pancake) coins😀 They actually taste pretty good if they’re not too thick and left to cook till the edges are crispy…

Slappy Cakes Chocolate Batter

Now for the mains… some of us had the Old-fashioned Breaded Dory Fish ($17) which was decent. Crispy on the outside, tender and juicy within. The baked potato needs work though.

Slappy Cakes Old-fashioned Breaded Dory Fish

And do not be fooled by this ordinary-looking Carbonara ($12). The creamy white sauce is AWESOME! How do they make carbonara so tasty?!!! For just $12 before tax, this dish is a MUST-ORDER one.

Slappy Cakes Spaghetti Carbonara

Then, there’s Pan-seared Cajun Chicken ($18). Decent chicken, nothing exceptional. I liked the boiled veggies though.🙂

Slappy Cakes Pan-seared Cajun Chicken

Here’s my mini pancake tower:

Slappy Cakes Review Singapore

I think Slappy Cakes is great for a night out with friends. You can chat while waiting for the pancakes to cook.🙂 And it’s always funny when people attempt to make a hello kitty pancake and it turns out looking like a crab!😀

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Slappy Cakes
The Grandstand
200 Turf Club Road (Old Turf Club in Bt.Timah)
#01-20/21
Singapore 287994
Tel : +65 6465 1814

Slappy Cakes
The Grandstand
200 Turf Club Road (Old Turf Club in Bt.Timah)
#01-20/21
Singapore 287994
Tel : +65 6465 1814

Kiseki Japanese Buffet Restaurant @ Orchard Central

Kiseki Japanese Buffet Restaurant

If you’re heading to Orchard Central for lunch on a (non-PH) weekday, there should be no need to call ahead to make a reservation, right? That’s what we thought. Till we reached Kiseki Japanese Buffet Restaurant yesterday and saw two moderately long queues outside the restaurant. One queue is for those who have made reservations (done online at least 3 days in advance, for example) and another queue for walk-in customers (which, unfortunately, meant us). For just S$23.30 all-in, you can enjoy a buffet lunch that includes salmon sashimi (yay!), cold prawns, tempura, and many other dishes. And oh… free flow drinks at no extra charge!

Considering how 10 slices of salmon sashimi can easily cost upwards of S$10 at places like NTUC FairPrice or Cold Storage, and I can as easily eat over 20 slices of sashimi at Kiseki, I wonder if the restaurant is in the business of F&B or philanthropy. Anyhow, just as I thanked my photog pal for the treat, I’ll like to thank Kiseki for the affordable prices for all.

Here’s some of what I ate: Salmon head (which was grilled with salt and pepper, I think), salmon sashimi, prawns, chawanmushi, tempura, and soup in a pot (I dropped some of the prawns in here too)😀

Kiseki Orchard Central

At the dessert station, there’s cake, fruit, chocolate fondue (no fountain, sadly) for marshmallows, and 5 flavors of gelato (chocolate, yuzu, vanilla, cookies & cream and what was probably green tea). Choose cookies & cream for its texture, or yuzu for that delightful fragrance🙂

Kiseki Japanese Buffet Restaurant Review

At the drinks counter, I mixed peach tea with green tea – the result was pretty good!🙂

If you’d like to know the prices for the Kiseki buffet, here’s a photo I took of their rates:

Kiseki Buffet Price

I highly recommend that you call ahead or make an online reservation via their website before you pop by Kiseki. Standing in the ‘walk-in’ queue and watching all those who’ve made reservations (but arrived later than you did) head into the restaurant ahead of you is not at all fun. Haha!

To make a reservation, call/sms 6736 1216 / 9626 7767

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At the restaurant, you might see little signs which state that food wastage will lead to an “additional charge of $5 per 100g”. I think these signs serve as ‘gentle reminders’ because you pay up before even being ushered to a table, and you can leave as soon as you think you are full. There was no weighing and no paying for wastage. Still, I hope that diners have the decency to take only what they’ll finish eating. Anyway, if you ‘whack’ the salmon sashimi, you would have already gotten your money’s worth. #justsaying

Why Some F&B Businesses Survive While 9000 Others Fail

Cat And The Fiddle

Pic: Cat & The Fiddle Facebook Page

Some 9000 new F&B businesses are incorporated each year, and some 9000 close shop too. Thus the total number of F&B businesses in Singapore is kept constant at around 31,000. This is what Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, Assistant Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) told a group of F&B business owners recently.

At a sharing session jointly organized by NTUC’s U SME, Singapore Bakery and Confectionary Trade Association (SBCTA) and Food Innovation & Resource Centre (FIRC), Mr Yeo shared that it’s because the barriers to entry are low that competition is fierce, which results in the perception that the industry is a tough one to be in.

If you own a bakery, for instance, it is very easy for (new) competitors to replicate your products and price them lower than yours. Take BreadTalk’s floss bun for instance.

Competition aside, not everyone is equipped with the skills to run an F&B business. Chef Daniel Tay from Cat & The Fiddle also shared about that 1 million dollar mistake he made at the start of his journey…

Chef Daniel Tay

Chef Daniel Tay is the founder of Cat & the Fiddle Cheesecakes, Foodgnostic Food Solution and Old Seng Choong. “Seng Choong Confectionery” was the bakery founded in 1965 by his father. It folded in 1996.

“I came on board to expand my father’s business in 1995 but didn’t succeed in doing so then. I’ve always regretted that. Now, after spending the past two decades further honing my skills as a baker and sharpening my business acumen, I’m ready to revive the Seng Choong brand in his honour. And this time, I will do him proud,” says Daniel.

Back then, after some training in Bangkok and not really knowing about business very much, Daniel tried helping his dad to expand the business, and the factory they invested 1 million dollars in folded within a year. Daniel shared that the business was undercapitalized, and that he had been too proud, with no experience in doing business, yet expected overnight success. Daniel is heartened, however, that the brand has been revived and that it was done just a few months before his father’s passing, so the late Mr Tay got to see it happen. While Old Seng Choong sells its confections online right now, Daniel has plans to set up a cafe and gift shop for tourists to purchase these local creations.

Daniel also told the audience of F&B business owners that his companies have a ‘Glocal’ approach which stands for ‘Think Global, Act Local’ as the local market is just too small. He is even sending a container-load of cheesecakes to China, in a bid to enter the market there! When queried on why he didn’t just set up a factory in China to produce the cheesecakes, he says that he is leveraging on Singapore’s stellar reputation, rather than deal with public perception of what a “Made in China” cheesecake would be like. He is also franchising his production method so as to earn royalties.

Chef Daniel Tay’s 5 Tips For F&B Business Owners:

  1. Join an association. In the confectionery line? Join the Bakery Association. Together, there is a “stronger voice” for liaising with government agencies and getting the necessary assistance in a timely manner.
  2. Focus on only ONE product. Develop different flavors later. Improve your own product instead of copying someone else’s. Tai Cheong Egg Tarts at Takashimaya are selling 4,000 eggtarts a day just by focusing on one product.
  3. Use technology to be the best. Chef Daniel bought a $400,000 cheesecake blender, robotic cake slicing machine etc, because he wants to “be at the top of the industry”. (*He did this with the help of grants :D)
  4. Marketing must be done right. Brand must be strong, not boring, e.g. “Old Seng Choong” instead of “Seng Choong Confectionery”. Have a good storyline and a good PR company. Daniel says his business spends some $10,000 every month on online marketing. He also shared that they sold 3,000 Fickle Feline cakes in 2 days via qoo10’s website. Fickle Feline
  5. Be smart about grants: If you are known, it is much easier to get funding (and in larger amounts too). Your brand, your person, your business must be known. If you and your business are known to the public (and the government), you may get faster approval for your grants, and in a larger quantum too.

At the same event, we also heard from Joel Chan of the Food Innovation & Resource Centre (FIRC) which is located within Singapore Polytechnic. FIRC was set up in 2007 in a partnership between Singapore Polytechnic and SPRING. At the FIRC, business owners can receive assistance with everything from product innovation to process automation to sensory evaluation. FIRC can help with product reformulation, and also aspects like how to extend shelf life of the product, how to increase efficiency so you produce products cheaper, better, faster.

For instance, they are working on a machine which can produce kueh lapis, which is highly labor-intensive when done by hand.

Kueh Lapis

Image: harrianns.com

What was most memorable about this segment by the FIRC were Joel’s questions about the local fast food scene. He said that McDonald’s is raising the game with things like their curry sauce and how customers can go about customizing their own burgers. He commends them on the constant barrage of new and innovative additions to their menu. He asked the audience to name (off the top of their heads) items on McDonald’s menu, and it was evident that many people could name quite a few. When quizzed about the menu items of McDonald’s competitors, many people were stumped. It was clear that the point he was trying to make was that innovation and responding quickly to consumer trends is key to McDonald’s success. And this is what local SME bosses in the F&B industry ought to do too.

Finally, Mr Yeo from NTUC encouraged SME bosses to take advantage of what the Lean Enterprise Development (LED) Scheme offers in terms of helping SMEs:

  1. Become more manpower-lean
  2. Develop a stronger Singaporean core
  3. Build a quality workforce

Also, with the Industry Transformation Map that has just been released, there is a Limited Period Grant for 2018-2019 from SPRING, which small businesses can tap on for their ‘transformation’. As Chef Daniel Tay was quick to add, it is necessary transformation not just to survive, but to thrive.

Seoul Jjimdak: Good Food, Decent Prices, Free WiFi

Seoul Jjimdak City Square Mall

Korean food that suits the local palate @ Seoul Jjimdak (Pictures courtesy of Hearted Moments Photography)

I first visited Seoul Jjimdak at City Square Mall last month and found out that the local boss of this Korean eatery has a real estate background just like I do. This time round, I managed to meet him in person and while there’s much to chat about the sluggish property market, I found that Anthony has a lot to share about staff retention and welfare. This is probably why service is good here.🙂 If you’re at the City Square Mall / Little India area and want to enjoy decent food at reasonable prices, with free wifi, head to Seoul Jjimdak at the fifth level of City Square Mall. It’s right next to the cinema.

Also, please do not misunderstand: Jjimdak is not a duck dish… it is actually braised CHICKEN.😀 For some 30-odd dollars, you get a huge serving pan of the chicken dish which you can enjoy, communal style, with friends.

The Seoul Jjimdak (braised chicken) was still as good as what we enjoyed a month ago (thumbs up for consistency) and I suppose it tasted even better this time with the addition of cheese (I have to thank my pal for the suggestion). Also, the appetizers now feature egg and cucumber too. You’ll definitely want to ask for top-ups!😀 (*Tip: if you have a cough, like I do, order a cup of their hot citron – it’s rather soothing)

Seoul Jjimdak Steamed Egg

As mentioned earlier, I was impressed by what Anthony had to share regarding staff retention. I’m thankful that he let me pick his brains for a bit as I know that it’s very tough to hire staff for the F&B industry, and I wanted to find out what he’s been doing well HR-wise so other bosses reading this post can learn too.🙂

Anthony shared that while some of his staff have followed him from his previous work / ventures, for this current Korean food joint, he is happy about the ‘hype’ surrounding Korean food and pop culture. He believes that more people would be willing to work in a Korean restaurant versus a Western one as the environment is attractive (listen to nice Korean songs while working, enjoy the food tasting sessions, etc).

On top of that, on the topic of (new) competitors, Anthony said “You can copy my recipe, but you can’t copy my culture.” And what is this culture that he’s talking about?

For one, he brought his staff with him to Korea for a week to understand the Korean culture. For many of them, it was their first trip overseas. When he ventures into other upcoming F&B businesses, his staff will also get to visit other countries. Also, the staff get to try all the food at Seoul Jjimdak, and this helps them become more confident in making recommendations to customers. They are also paid well and receive AWS (i.e. 13th month payment). [I didn’t confirm this with the staff, so I’ll just take Anthony’s word for it :D] What I think is most commendable is that staff at Seoul Jjimdak are empowered to make decisions on their own. For instance, if a pancake gets burnt, they trash it, they don’t serve it.

Even for new staff, as long as they follow Anthony’s three steps, they “should be fine”…

  1. Repeat the Order
  2. Ensure there’s no empty glass – there are transparent carafes for water. (Customers can help themselves to the water. Wait staff will refill the carafe when they see that it’s empty.)
  3. Check back to ensure everything is ok

It was supposed to be a simple meal with my pals, but I’m glad that meeting the boss of Seoul Jjimdak gave me an insight into good HR practices.🙂

If you’d like to try the Korean food served at Seoul Jjimdak, simply pop by City Square Mall (located above the Farrer Park MRT station). If you’re lucky, you might meet the warm and welcoming boss, Anthony.