Meet Chef Jeremy from Vita Italiana (Awesome Dessert Alert!)

Chef Jeremy Vita Italiana

I had the pleasure of joining Chef Jeremy for lunch, a couple of days before I went to KL for my volunteer trip. Chef Jeremy helms the kitchen at Vita Italiana, at 38 Mosque Street, Chinatown (very near to Chinatown Point). He doesn’t look like a local but I’ll tell you a secret – he’s 100% Singaporean! And the food served here is so good too! Allow me to take you through my favorites:

Appetizers: Eggplant, and Mushroom Soup too? 😀

Eggplant

I love eggplant, and cheesy eggplant is the best! 😀 And I was also given a sampling portion of the Creamy Mushroom and Porcini with truffle foam. I like that there is no diluting of their mushroom soup that is made with 4 kinds of mushrooms and truffle oil, so that great taste is retained.

Crabmeat Ravioli

Crabmeat Ravioli Vita Italiana

Inside a crabmeat ravioli

The humorous chef calls ravioli “Italian Wanton” and let’s just say this is the best wanton ever! The ratio of pasta to filling is just right and the sauce is so yummy! You’ll not want to share this dish with anyone else. 😀 Vita Italiana serves homemade pasta, and they serve homemade bread too, and dining here is just like dining at a friend’s home.

You’ll be most surprised at how their small but well-equipped kitchen manages to churn out all these fabulous dishes. But the secret is in letting the chef design the kitchen, which ensures maximum efficiency.

1 Pizza, 2 flavors: Carbonara and Bismarck

Pizza Vita Italiana

Pizza

Chef Jeremy recommends getting a half-and-half pizza (just pick your 2 favorite flavors) so you can share the food with your friends, and not get jelat from eating it all on your own – “just tickle your tastebuds”, he says. 😀

Though they’ve been in business for just about 4 months, business has been good as the restaurant caters for corporate events too and the chefs can also be hired for private chef events. The menu can be customized according to your budget so you can get interesting dishes like arugula salad with poached pears, crabmeat ravioli, cod done sicilian style, and more, all in the comfort of your own home!

Craft beers and organic wines

Craft beer

And what you definitely must have together with your meal are the organic wines and craft beers. I tried this one you see in the picture above and it was amazing! I’ve never had such yummy craft beer before. I don’t really know its name, but you can show this picture to the server if it helps! 😀

Chef Jeremy also shared with me that he adds beer into the pizza dough (imagine that!) as it helps the yeast develop the dough. So the pizza you saw earlier is not just any ordinary pizza ya! 😀

Blue Cheese Lava Cake

Blue Cheese Lava Cake

And to further prove my point about how the chef is just really playful when it comes to food, I’ll show you what we had for dessert first. Here you see the blue cheese lava cake. Yes, blue cheese (one of those things I refuse to eat). I’d wanted regular chocolate lava cake… but the chef insisted that this is worth a try. And it was! It actually tastes pretty good. Chocolate lava cakes are usually pretty sweet, but this one is tempered by the blue cheese and so, it’s just yummy without being cloyingly sweet. Quite a cool combination, and great for scaring your friends with when you insist that they order blue cheese lava cake. LOL!

Chef Jeremy also makes lasagna with stewed pulled pork instead of beef. Just the sound of that – pulled pork – and I can imagine how tender it must be. *I’m hungry now* But when I asked him what is “comfort food” to him, he shares that it’s carbonara, tiramisu, and calamari with a beer. And speaking about tiramisu… check out my review of the tiramisu in a bit. 🙂

Homemade Herb FettucciniPasta

While the chef’s first love is pastry, the pasta he makes is a dream too. Take the homemade herb fettuccini, for instance. You can see the herb in the pasta, and taste it too!

Ask him who inspired him to be a chef and he’ll quickly tell you that both his grandmas were his inspiration. He has an Indian-Eurasian dad. His Eurasian grandma never eats out – she is very proud of her heritage so she cooks at home. And he also has a Peranakan-Chinese grandma on his mom’s side of the family. No wonder he’s a chef!

At the tender age of 10, he was already making scrambled eggs – with extra milk so it’s more creamy. And he turned out to be the only boy in the cooking class when he was studying at Bedok South Secondary School. 😀

And the passion for Italian food? It’s because Italian cuisine is about the family, it’s rustic, home-cooked, informal, and not orderly like the French. And at Vita Italiana, it’s all of those things and more. The ambiance is great, the wait staff are happy and friendly, and most importantly, I get good beef. 😀 This is what the chef calls “Umami on a plate”…

Grilled 100-day Grain-fed Beef

Beef

I have no complaints about the beef… and even the potatoes and the mushrooms are delicious. And speaking about potatoes, the Chef shared that as a trainee, he was frustrated by the time he had to spend doing ‘prep’ as the chefs would not allow trainees near the stoves. So you have to peel potatoes and onions, and ‘prep prep prep’ but in the process, “you learn skill, speed and (all you need to know about) the product.”

And now, for my favorite dish at Vita Italiana… the dessert that I’ll hardly order anywhere else because few pastry chefs get it perfect.

Tiramisu Vita Italiana

This tiramisu is amazing. It contains 4 kinds of liquor (kahlua, rum, coffee liquor, marsala wine) and the texture is so soft, and of the melt-in-your-mouth variety! Definitely not for sharing! 😀

What I took away from this gastronomic experience is that when you cook from the heart, you’ll serve up wonderful plates. And this Italian restaurant even encourages customers to ask for something that’s not on the menu! As long as the ingredients are available, the chef will whip up something for you. All they ask is that you lose yourself in the food and the ambiance in this restaurant where they believe they are selling happiness, and not just food. 🙂

Vita Italiana is located at 38 Mosque Street. Call 6220 0093 for reservations.

~

https://www.facebook.com/VitaItalianaRestaurant/

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BFF Recommendation of Chinatown’s Best: Lian He Ben Ji Claypot Rice

Lian He Ben Ji Claypot Rice

Would you wait an hour or more for claypot rice on a weekend, in a (possibly hot and humid) Chinatown hawker centre? Well, this is exactly what customers do to get a taste of Lian He Ben Ji’s famous Claypot Rice. So this claypot rice should be even more awesome than Sylvia Lim’s “taste of Fengshan” orh luak, right? And yes, this was what we had for dinner tonight – BFF’s recommendation. 🙂

A group of us had planned a belated birthday surprise for BFF Steven. The cat (or rather, cake) would have been let out of the bag if we’d suggested Tung Lok Private Dining, for instance. So when Steven said he’d like to have claypot rice for dinner at Chinatown, heh heh, we went ahead with that. Awfully Chocolate’s banana chocolate cake in a Chinatown hawker centre. How’s that for memorable, eh?

Steven Lek

One of the best things that have happened to me since I embarked on my blogging journey is the number of amazing friendships forged. Steven is one of my students-turned-friends. He used to be a ‘big potato’ (an endearing term we use to refer to high-flyers, or ‘big shots’) in Singapore Airlines before he retired (check out his blogpost here and spot his pictures with the late President Wee, and even Princess Diana). There’s so much I admire and appreciate about this guy, but there are two main qualities I’d like to share with you: his Loyalty and his Humility (this one might seem strange if you are familiar with his jokes).

Steven’s a truly loyal friend – one I can count on always. And I don’t use this term “BFF” loosely, like many other people do. I do also think it is pretty amazing that a big potato would be a good friend of mine. Most big potatoes I’ve met are snotty, while Steven’s probably the friendliest big potato ever. While people of a certain social standing tend to “flock together” with others of the same kind, Steven loves making new friends and doesn’t conform to the norm. That’s as odd as having Awfully Chocolate cake in a hawker centre where there’s no air-conditioning. 😀

And if you’re still curious about the Claypot Rice stall, its unit number is 02-199:

Chinatown Lian He Ben Ji Claypot Rice

I’d take frog leg porridge over claypot rice any day, but if claypot rice with salted fish is what will make the BFF’s day, then so be it. Ha! If you’re a fan of claypot rice, you should definitely pop by on a weekday when there are fewer diners and the wait is not too long.

The highlight of the meal (for me) was the steamed fish head. This one is super yummy. I believe it’s a fermented bean sauce (don’t quote me on this) and it is really delicious. And cheap – just S$13! You won’t find such great value in restaurants, for sure.

Steamed Fish Head in Hot Sauce

This stall was actually recommended by the drinks seller, when we went to get some sugar cane juice (the two stalls are next to each other). I’ll definitely be back again for this steamed fish head in hot sauce.

Since there were 6 of us, BFF also ordered another fish head from another stall. This second fish seems to be patin, but I’m not sure. It has that peculiar taste that the Chinese describe as being “muddy” that resembles that of the patin fish we’ve eaten in the past. I’m not a fan of this dish, and don’t know which stall it is from, which is just as well.

Chinatown Fish Head

It might be the BFF’s doing – I am now more fussy when it comes to food and am not easily impressed anymore. LOL. Steven’s the one who introduced me to Dancing Crab, Blue Lotus, and many more eating places.

Come back again soon to read about more of my BFF’s foodie recommendations. 😀 😀 😀

Staying At Amoy Hotel and Exploring Chinatown

Singapore Chinatown

Chinatown

I enjoyed my stay at Amoy Hotel primarily because of its awesome location – Chinatown is a foodie’s paradise. Read my Amoy Hotel review here and a little piece on the Fuk Tak Chi Museum right here. I’d checked in on a Sunday, when most of the restaurants and shops around the hotel were closed. It was no cause for worry because just 5 to 10 minutes away is the rest of Chinatown where I can shop and mainly, eat to my heart’s content. So here’s a quick (and hopefully useful) guide to what to do / see / eat after you have dropped off your luggage at Amoy Hotel!

For the foodie:

In the immediate vicinity of the hotel are restaurants like Hock Lam Beef, Honzen Express and Sushi Tei (among others) – all of which I would recommend. For breakfast, you can also skip the hotel breakfast if it does not impress you and pop by Ya Kun Kaya Toast to taste what locals would eat – kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs and a cup of coffee.

If you don’t have much time to explore other parts of Singapore for good food, then you are in luck! The newly-opened Chinatown Food Street brings together the best of hawker food around the island. Head over to the Food Street to try satay from Newton Circus, BBQ Chicken Wings from Chomp Chomp, Cheng Kee Hokkien Mee, Fried Oysters from Katong, and much much more!

Chinatown Food Street

Chinatown Food Street Oyster Omelette

Chinatown Food Street Hokkien Mee

Chinatown Food Street Fried Horfun

The Chinatown Food Street, at night:

Chinatown Food Street

At tea time, you can also head to Tong Heng for some very yummy egg tarts. I sure did. Just S$1.60 each:

Sri Mariamman Temple

To get to Tong Heng, just look out for the yellow signboard after you have passed the Sri Mariamman Temple:

Tong Heng Egg Tarts

* If you can afford the extra calories *

Try the very famous Lim Chee Guan bak kwa (barbecued pork slices) that locals eat mainly during Lunar New Year, but is available year-round. You can order just 100g of that barbecued goodness for a sampling or even consider getting 1kg to bring home to friends and family! [A kg usually costs about S$50]

Lim Chee Guan

For Dessert:

Head to Chinatown Point, where you will find, at the basement, Mei Heong Yuen Dessert, which is popular for its range of ‘snow ice desserts’.

Mei Heong Yuen Dessert

One other dessert place at Chinatown Point is Hong Kong Sheng Kee Dessert, which I would not recommend for their desserts, but their mains instead:

Hong Kong Sheng Kee Dessert Chinatown Point

I like their Braised Beef Hor Fun (S$7.90)

For the health-conscious foodie:

Pop by China Square Central (less than a 5 minute walk away) and head to the basement. At #B1-02 is LINS Smoodees where you can order green smoothies which are oh-so-yummy and so good for your body. Do try their herbal porridge as well, which I highly recommend. If you’re experiencing jet lag or just feeling under the weather, what you get at LINS will surely perk you up.

For the gym rat:

Amoy Hotel does not come with a gym, but just downstairs is the Evolve Mixed Martial Arts studio. Pop by for a workout if you will. A little further is True Fitness at China Square Central’s basement.

For the photography enthusiast:

If you like snapping pictures of temples and/or visiting them, there is the famous Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and the equally famous Sri Mariamman Temple (the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore).

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Sri Mariamman Temple

The Sri Mariamman Temple was constructed in 1827 and today, it is best known for the fire-walking ceremony, or Theemithi, that is held every October or November. Devotees would walk on hot coals as a test of their faith and devotion.

Other places of interest: 

The Singapore Coins and Notes Museum and The TinTin Shop:

Singapore Coins And Notes Museum

The TinTin Shop

For the shopaholic:

At Chinatown Point are some shops which may interest you. Fans of branded goods will love Luxury City where branded items (supposedly authentic, but of past seasons) are sold at a discount. Also visit the Adidas pop-up store if you would like to get some cheap sporting gear – for instance, you can get a pair of Adidas running shoes at just over S$60.

Luxury City Chinatown Point

Adidas Chinatown Point

*This list is by no means exhaustive of course. Just what I did after checking in at Amoy Hotel. 🙂 If you need more recommendations, feel free to approach the staff.

Chinatown

[*Reader Privilege* Amoy Hotel Promotion Rates: Get 20% off your room rates and a Free City Tour for 2 (worth $39.80)! CLICK HERE!]

Entrance To Amoy Hotel: The Fuk Tak Chi Museum

[Read my review of Amoy Hotel and get 20% OFF your room rates PLUS a Free City Tour for 2, worth $39.80] 

This isn’t your usual hotel entrance, is it?

Fuk Tak Chi Museum

It is the entrance to the Fuk Tak Chi Museum, and the entrance to Amoy Hotel which is located behind the museum! 😀 Hotel guests are definitely in for a treat. I suppose some may even be unable to locate the hotel because the museum hides it from view, and the address is high up in a little corner:

Fuk Tak Chi Museum

The Fuk Tak Chi Museum was officially opened on 19 November 1998, in this location rich in culture and heritage.

The hotel also provides a free guided tour of the museum – so approach the staff for a tour. The museum is rather small but I like the little pieces of history preserved here – from the historical architecture to the old photographs printed onto cushion covers:

Fuk Tak Chi Museum

Fuk Tak Chi Museum

Fuk Tak Chi Museum

There is a sizeable mock-up of what Singapore looked like in the past, with coolies and all:

Fuk Tak Chi Museum

Spotted on a plaque outside: “Fuk Tak Chi: One of the first Chinese temples in Singapore, it had its beginnings here as a small shrine set up by Hakka and Cantonese immigrants in 1824. As its importance grew, it also functioned as an association that looked after the interests of the two dialect groups. The patron deity is the Earth God or Dai Bak Gong (in Cantonese) – a popular deity with the Chinese here.”

We definitely enjoyed the museum visit! 🙂

Fuk Tak Chi Museum

Essential Information:

Open 10am to 10pm daily

FREE admission

[Spotted within the museum] Drop A Coin and Make A Wish:

Fuk Tak Chi Museum

Drop a coin in and make a wish! All the coins will be collected and donated to charity, and your wish may just come true! 🙂

Read Also:

(1) My Review of Amoy Hotel

(2) What To Do / See / Eat in Chinatown

Hotel Review – Amoy Hotel: A Haven For History Buffs

[*Reader Privilege* Amoy Hotel Promotion Rates: Get 20% off your room rates and a Free City Tour for 2 (worth $39.80)! CLICK HERE!]

I had the pleasure of a staycation at Amoy Hotel last week and I must say that I have never stayed in a hotel so rich in heritage and steeped in local culture – It’s located in Far East Square and the entrance to the hotel is via the Fuk Tak Chi Museum (originally a Chinese temple, and one of the oldest in Singapore)! The location of the hotel is significant, in that it was once the landing site of Chinese immigrants arriving by boat to seek better fortunes here. The hotel is also a great spot to begin exploring Chinatown from: read my guide HERE.

The friendly staff of Amoy Hotel:

Amoy Hotel Singapore

The guy in the middle is named April. I can’t forget his name, ever since I asked him about how he came to be named ‘April’.

Seating Area in the hotel:

Amoy Hotel Singapore

Sitting on the birdcage-like chair:

Amoy Hotel Singapore

There is a feature wall in the hotel lobby with the most common surnames / family names of early Chinese immigrants. And each room in the hotel has a different surname above the room number.

I found my family name outside Room 201:

Amoy Hotel Singapore

I stayed in a Deluxe Double Room, which had its space constraints. No effort was spared in making it a comfortable stay though.

Amoy Hotel Singapore

*I love the beautiful, white aircon cover. I’d also watched the first episode of the new season of ‘The Walking Dead’ in this room! 😀

The minibar was well-stocked with drinks and there was a coffee machine for coffee lovers too. April recommended the Caramel Oolong tea and I tried it – pretty good!

Amoy Hotel Singapore

I loved the rain shower too, though it was rather perplexing that the washbasin and a short walkway separated the shower stall from the toilet.

Amoy Hotel SingaporeYou’ve probably already spotted the awesome porcelain washbasin:

Amoy Hotel Singapore

*I love the attention to detail! Even mouthwash is provided! For those heading out into wet weather, there is an umbrella hanging by the clothes hangers, and everything from a clothes iron to a hairdryer can be found within the room.

There are a total of 37 rooms within Amoy Hotel and most of them (21, I think) are single rooms, so I asked to get a peep into one of them. Note that no two rooms are alike, in terms of furnishing and layout! So ask for a different room each time you stay at Amoy? 😀

A single room:

Amoy Hotel Singapore

I guess the only disappointment was the hotel breakfast spread.

Amoy Hotel Singapore

There was a small selection of breads and other pastries, mee goreng, sausages, bacon, cheeses, cereal, etc. And that was about it. I guess I was missing scrambled eggs. 😀 My stay commenced on a Sunday, so much of the immediate vicinity of the hotel resembled a ghost town – there are many restaurants nearby but all were shut on Sunday. I guess hotel guests who pick weekday stays will really love the convenience of just popping downstairs and having so many restaurants to choose from! I took a 5-10 minute walk to Chinatown Point and checked out other parts of Chinatown at dinnertime on Sunday.

My (small) hotel breakfast :

Amoy Hotel Singapore

My Thoughts About Amoy Hotel:

I expect a lot more from Far East Hotels because, for me, the brand is synonymous with great service, friendly people and all things luxurious. Amoy Hotel does not come with a gym nor a pool, so besides banking on its excellent location, it also has to deliver surprises to exceed each guest’s expectations.

I loved everything from the fancy washbasin, the lovely goodnight note someone put on my pillow while I was out for dinner, to the really comfortable bedroom slippers (I took a pair home, and also saw another guest wear those slippers to breakfast).

What could have been improved upon would be the attention to detail. If you scroll upwards to my picture of the breakfast spread, you’ll notice that the juice dispensers were almost out of juice. I would also have liked to be given some information about the history of the area. I don’t recall getting the complimentary newspapers either.

What would have really blown me away would be if the hotel managed to educate me (assuming I am a foreigner) on top of taking care of my comfort needs. For instance, if there was a small jar of Tiger balm or a miniature bottle of Axe brand medicated oil in the room, with a short write-up about what locals use these for (aches and pains, and headaches), Amoy Hotel would be a truly unforgettable hotel for me. I would also take those items home with me. 🙂

I guess the BEST time to stay at Amoy Hotel would be during the Chinese New Year period. It offers tourists and business travelers the opportunity to take in all the sights and sounds (and smells – good ones!) of the festive period, and still walk right back to a comfortable bed.

*Read my blogposts about the Fuk Tak Chi Museum at the entrance to Amoy Hotel, and the not-to-be-missed food places around the hotel, in the Chinatown area.

Hotel Information:

76 Telok Ayer Street S048464

info.amoy@fareast.com.sg / Tel: +65 6580 2888

[Book HERE for 20% off your room rate PLUS a FREE CITY TOUR for 2, worth $39.80!]

Also, check out the other Far East Hotels I have reviewed:

1) Oasia Hotel

2) Quincy Hotel

Who Makes The Best Bak Kwa: Lim Chee Guan, Bee Cheng Hiang or Fragrance?

Bak Kwa brands in Singapore

[200g each, at about the same price S$10-S$11]

I’ve always wondered (1) whether there is a real difference between bak kwa from company A and bak kwa from company B, (2) why people queue for HOURS to buy bak kwa during the period leading up to the Lunar New Year when it is available all year round, and (3) how much exactly do these bak kwa chains make during Lunar New Year, such that they can keep their stores open the entire year and sustain manpower costs and all! Obviously, I won’t get the answers to every single question! 😀

So, before prices increase, I’ve bought bak kwa from 3 of the leading brands: Lim Chee Guan, Bee Cheng Hiang and Fragrance.

I found the bak kwa from Lim Chee Guan to be a little more tender. Bee Cheng Hiang and Fragrance had ‘sweeter’ tasting bak kwa, and the latter brand had a bit more spice (pepper?) in it. The bak kwa from Bee Cheng Hiang didn’t go through much quality control as well, as more than 50% of the surface area was charcoal black, on top of being drier and a little difficult to chew (tough luck if you happen to be wearing dentures).

So yes, I have to conclude that Lim Chee Guan has the better tasting bak kwa and I also bought the spicier version of their bak kwa separately, and it is absolutely delicious! I wouldn’t say it’s worth an hour-long wait though. I’ll just eat it at some other time in the year. 😀

Do you agree that Lim Chee Guan serves up the best bak kwa? If not, where do you get your Lunar New Year bak kwa from?

Why I Want To Make More $ And Eat At Hawker Centres

chinatown fish porridge

I had lunch today at the hawker centre near OG People’s Park. Just a bowl of sliced fish porridge.

I barely had two spoonfuls of the porridge when a granny, with a weathered face and a hunched back, walked over hesitantly.

She did not approach diners though she held out three packets of tissue paper. It was as though she was afraid of being scolded so she stayed a respectful (and fearful?) distance away from us.

She was about to walk past me without so much as bringing her tissue packets close to the table I was seated at. I was both surprised and concerned.

I reached for my wallet, fearful that I may be the only one to buy tissues from granny since the start of the day.

I took out $10, folded it into quarters and pressed the note into her palm. Her face lit up with a smile though she said nothing.

Perhaps she thought I could only understand English and she couldn’t communicate with me.

(She did give me one extra packet of tissue. 😀 )

And so I ate… with 4 packets of tissue on my table. And as I ate, I reflected on how blessed my life has been.

Though there have been trying times, and ups-and-downs, I didn’t have to try to sell tissue paper to people who appear disinterested about my presence.

I watched as granny walked away. Hopefully I gave her renewed confidence in the kindness of strangers. I watched her hunched back and the two bags she shouldered. And I felt overwhelmed.

What would it feel like to be at her age and still trying to eke out a living in a sometimes heartless world?

I very much want to be in the position to give granny $50 and not ‘feel the pinch’. I very much want to see her eyes widen in amazement. I very much want to tell her to go home and rest her weary feet and have a warm meal as I’d like to buy all her tissues.

So yes, I want to do all that one day.

I want to make more $ and continue eating at hawker centres. 🙂

~

Later in the evening, I went to Orchard Central to meet an advertiser. On my way back to the MRT station, I met another old granny selling tissue.

Like the granny in the afternoon, she was a most passive ‘salesperson’. She stood in the shadows as the crowd passed by.

I stopped, got $10 out of my wallet and she repeatedly said “no change, no change” worriedly.

I put the money into her palm and told her “It’s ok” and slowly walked away to show her I didn’t want any change. The smile she gave me was enough.

Tonight, I’ll go to bed knowing that to the world, I may be just one person. But to two grannies today, I may be that person who made a world of difference as to how their day turned out.

My friends, the next time you see a granny selling tissue, please give her whatever spare change you have. Let no granny have to go hungry or be ignored on our watch. Good night! 🙂

*A previous post I did about a granny selling tissue at Tiong Bahru: click HERE.