A Taste of India at Newport Centre

Taste of India, Authentic Indian Cuisine at Newport Centre Mall.

I went up to the food court at the Newport Centre Mall for the first time last weekend.  I saw some old favorites that I hadn’t been to since before I left the US for Kuwait in 2007 and I was pretty sure I was going to wind up eating at Sarku Japan.  It’s not real Japanese food, but it tastes pretty good.  Then I saw a place called A Taste of India: Authentic Indian Cuisine.  I went over and they were handing out free samples of chicken.  It tasted pretty good, but I wasn’t really convinced.  Then I saw that they had chicken biryani, and I wondered if it was anything like the nasi briyani I’d had in Singapore.  I asked for a sample and while it wasn’t exactly the same, it was really close and really good.  It was really spicy too!

Chicken biryani from A Taste of India at Newport Centre Mall.

I wound up getting a bowl of it, with spicy curry on top.  It doesn’t look too appealing in this photo, but most of the foods I ate in Asia tasted better than they looked anyway.

Something about the restaurant was kind of jarring.  They all seemed to be first generation immigrants, judging by their accents, possibly from the same family.  The way they were working the crowd and cajoling people into taking samples and then buying food from them reminded me of street vendors in the Asian countries I’d visited.  They could have just as easily been on a street in Kuala Lumpur or a food court in Singapore.  The weird part is that they were all wearing cheesy looking, brightly colored, standard uniforms.  I guess it was something about the authentic taste of the food and the authentic behavior of the employees clashing with the American franchise store and uniform designs that threw me off.  I suppose it doesn’t matter though.  I paid for good food and that’s what I got.

Old Spaghetti House at Galleria

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Yesterday afternoon, after a day of running around trying to do job interviews and visit the GSIS office for my father-in-law, we stopped by Galleria on our way home to have dinner.  I wasn’t sure what to eat, but I was in the mood for something Italian, so my wife recommended Old Spaghetti House.  I’m glad we went.  The food there is great!  It’s not fine dining per se, but it’s well worth the money.

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I went with the Vietnamese garlic spaghetti with shrimp.  I’m not sure if it’s actually a popular Vietnamese dish.  It tasted really good though!

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My wife decided to have their puttanesca, which is translated literally as “whore’s spaghetti”.  There are conflicted theories about the origins of this dish, but the more colorful one is that it was a dish that prostitutes in Italy’s state run brothels made for themselves out of the odds and ends in their larders.  As a condition of working in the state run brothels, they were only allowed out one day a week, so they were often low on supplies and this light sauce made from few ingredients was the result of their attempts to get by.  More information can be found in the Wikipedia article.

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After dinner, I finally got the chance to introduce my wife to funnel cake.  Funnel cakes are popular at fairs in the US, but they’re pretty rare in Asia.  I don’t recall ever seeing a place with this on the menu in Singapore.  She loved it!  You can see in the photo that they don’t add quite as much powdered sugar as they do in the US, but it came with a choice of toppings which made up for it.

Speaking of Singapore… it seems like you can’t get away from it over here.  I found this stuff on the menu:

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I don’t care for the original Tom Yum soup, so I really don’t think I’d like the way it tastes as a pizza or spaghetti.

The Pancake House at Galleria Mall

Earlier this month my wife and I were looking for a place to eat in Galleria and I saw something that looked like it would definitely hit the spot, The Pancake House.  They had some interesting looking ads in the window and the one that caught my eye was a fried chicken tenders and waffle dish.  It claimed to be ‘Southern’ style chicken, as in Southern US style chicken.  Fried chicken is popular in the South, but from what I know (from a movie) the idea of waffles and chicken is something from Los Angeles.  Well, I could be wrong.

The service standard at the restaurant was great.  We were greeted at the door and quickly shown to a seat.  The service from the waiter was prompt and friendly.  The place is clean and it has a nice theme.  My dish seemed a little pricey, but it was still reasonable, especially since it was in the mall.

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This is the Southern chicken and waffle.  There was also a small bit of salad that was pretty good.  I loved the black olives.  The dish also came with three sauces: syrup for the waffle, a gravy for the chicken, and a light, tangy dressing for the salad.

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My wife ordered a traditional Filipino dish that’s usually called crispy liempo.  The menu had a fancy name for it, but I can’t remember what it is.  The meat is deep-fried pork belly and the rice is garnished with fried garlic.

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p align=”left”>We didn’t try anything else from the menu, but after the great meal we had, I’m willing to go back for more.

Singapore in Manila

Having recently left Singapore I thought it was cool to see Singaporean restaurants in Manila, specifically in Megamall.  I suppose it makes sense that there would be Singaporean restaurants here, in Manila.  A large amount of Singapore’s foreign labor force comes from the Philippines and while Filipinos may eventually go home, they might still crave some Singaporean dishes like I do.

So, here’s Singapore in Manila:

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We took a brief look at the menu for ‘Orchard Road’ and saw Hainanese Chicken Rice listed prominently.  It’s nice to know that I’ll still be able to satisfy that craving.  I hope they serve the red chili sauce with it though, or it just won’t be the same.  If you’re wondering, the chicken rice is priced at roughly 6 SGD there.

The second restaurant will hopefully help me satisfy my craving for kopi, though I didn’t think about it at the time and didn’t check the menu.

The Soup Spoon @ Bugis Junction

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My wife and I are constantly finding and trying new restaurants and I’m kinda sad that this one slipped our notice until just two days before I leave Singapore.  The Soup Spoon has some GREAT food.

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My wife ordered the Simon & Garfunkel Ragout (pronounced ‘ra-goo’).  I had a little taste of it and it was delicious.  I don’t know how close to original the ragout recipe is, but it was great on its own.

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I had the Velvety Mushroom Stroganoff.  Ever since I got to experience the mushroom soup at Say Cheeze in Tampines 1 I’m always on the lookout for a chance to try a new recipe.  I never realized mushroom soup could be so good, because in the US plain ‘cream of’ soups aren’t that popular and the ones that come in the cans are really bland.  The mushroom soup at The Soup Spoon is really excellent.  It’s thick and the chunks of mushroom are big enough to sink your teeth into.

The soups could be a meal by themselves, especially with the bread roll that comes with it, but they had a set meal offer that we took advantage of.

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My wife tried their Garden Green salad.  She said it was nice.

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I had the Chicken Tikka half-wrap.  It was ok.  I think I’d have enjoyed it more but it didn’t really go well with the soup I chose.  The taste was tart and sour, which was an abrupt change after the smooth, mellow tastes of the soup.  Oh, and the stuff on the side that you can see in the picture above?  It tasted just a bit south of foul.  I left that alone.

Overall, the meal was very satisfying and very filling and, surprisingly, very affordable at only 22 bucks for both of us.

I’m just sad that I’ll probably never eat at this place again.  It would’ve been a regular stop for me if I’d known about it earlier.

Japanese Sesson Grill at Manpuku, Tampines 1

We’ve gone to Manpuku quite a few times, but we still haven’t tried everything the place has to offer.  That’s not so much for lack of opportunity, but lack of desire.  You see, Manpuku as an establishment has slowly been going downhill.

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When Manpuku first opened, the place was packed all the time.  It was fresh, it was clean, the decor was awesome and the food was a novelty.  Unfortunately, most of the choices weren’t anything to get excited about, especially for the prices they were charging.  Most of it is little better than hawker food.

A few months ago, I’m not sure exactly when, Manpuku’s customer base shrunk to the point that they did away with the charge card system.  It used to be that when you arrived you would queue up to wait for seating and to get a charge card.  You would use the card to pay for the items you wanted from the various booths inside.  Then, before leaving you went through a register check-out lane, kinda like in a grocery store.  That’s where you settled your bill.  Now, you just walk in and pay at the specific booth you want to eat from, either cash or NETS.  If you want to use a credit card you still use the original charge card system.  I suppose that system became more of a hassle than it was worth in regards to having extra employees just to ring up the bills and the owner realized it would be more cost effective to have individual booth workers handle their own cash payments.

With the lower patronage comes lower standards it seems.  The trays are usually covered in a white grime and the eating utensils still have residue on them when you pick them up.  It makes me wonder if they even use washing soap or if they just rinse them with water.  I’ve also had trouble communicating with some of the employees lately.

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Despite these issues, there are still a few gems to be found there.  The ramen from Aoba Hokkaido Ramen is pretty good but we wanted to try something different, so we went to Japanese Sesson Grill, which is in the corner near the MRT tracks.

The food is a bit pricey.  Individual kabobs were between 2.50 and 3 bucks apiece, which seems expensive given their size.  We settled on having a set meal that came with five skewers, rice and miso soup for 13 SGD.  It seemed a fair enough price to pay for what we were getting.

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One good thing about Manpuku falling out of public favor is that it’s less crowded and you can actually have a quiet sort of meal there.  We went to the very corner, overlooking the MRT station area.  It was even a bit cozy feeling there.

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The food itself was better than I hoped it would be.  It’s nothing to get too excited about but I definitely felt that I’d gotten what I paid for and left satisfied.

Kim Garry: Hong Kong Restaurant

The booths looked really comfortable but they were all full. The booths on the other side of the restaurant were roped off, since the restaurant wasn’t that full.

On Wednesday I went to meet my wife for a late lunch and she recommended we try out the Kim Garry restaurant that’s on the basement level of Tampines 1. I’d never had Hong Kong style food before, at least that I know of, so I was willing to give it a shot.

When we were seated by the hostess, she tried to squeeze us into a cramped area along the wall that was already packed with customers, so we went ahead and re-seated ourselves at a stand-alone table where we’d have more room.  If I’m going to pay for food at a restaurant I’d rather be comfortable, otherwise I’d just go pay 3 bucks for food at a hawker and squeeze in there.

This is the back of the restaurant. If I remember right, there was a window in that back wall that opened on the kitchen.
A little Engrish to liven things up.

The decor of the restaurant is really nice.  It had a stylish, modern look to it, but it felt a little incongruous given the types of food.

The borscht soup and the silverware, which was packed in a sealed container.

The food itself was good.  We started out with the borsch, which is a traditionally Russian or Polish soup that has a beet and tomato juice base.  The borsch we were served had chunks of tomato and cabbage in it as well.  I’d never had borsch before, so I have no basis for comparison but it seemed pretty good to me.

Before moving on, one more thing I’d like to point out is how they serve their silverware.  You can see it in the picture above.  It comes in a sealed container and the utensils were spotless, which is just how I like it.

The sauce was delicious and the serving was generous!

My wife had a dish that I forget the name of, but it had pork chops in garlic sauce over spaghetti noodles.  She let me have a bite of the pork chop and it tasted great!

A few pieces of the beef were chewy, and I think I screwed up picking the red wine sauce that’s under the cheese, on the rice, but it was still a good dish.

I went with the beef baked rice with cheese.  There was a choice between a white cream sauce with sweet corn and a red wine sauce.  I went with the red wine sauce, which I think may have been a mistake.  It’s sweetness threw off the whole dish.  If I go there again before departing Singapore, I’ll definitely try a baked rice dish with corn next time.

When it came time to pay the bill, we were happy with the cost.  The food seemed to be reasonably priced.

Overall, the dining experience was moderate.  It’s hard to judge a whole restaurant off of one trip and one dish, but I think this is a restaurant that’s worth going back to at least a few more times to further explore the menu, if only I had the opportunity.

Tampines 1’s Food Court

Every mall in Singapore that I’ve been to has a food court that is, in reality, just an indoor hawker.  The same basic varieties of food are served in the same basic way.  It’s a very convenient way to eat, especially if you’re not willing to spring for an expensive meal in a sit down restaurant.  These food courts (and hawkers) in Singapore often have much better prices than what you’d find in a mall food court in the US, making them a very affordable place to eat.

I’d somehow assumed that Tampines 1 was an exception to the rule that every mall has a food court.  I’d just never seen it.  It’s tucked away in a corner on the top floor, by the pet shop.  We happened to see it when we went to the pet shop to browse for travel carriers for our cats.

The food court isn’t bad at all.  The air conditioning there is ice cold and it offers glassed walls all the way around, which offer an excellent view of the area around Tampines 1.  The iced kacang seemed to be pretty popular, and there was a stall called Kuala Lumpur Roasted I want to try out.  I’m sure it’s just the standard chicken rice / roast pork rice / etc. stall, but maybe they have their own twist to the recipe that’s worth experiencing.

 

The most disappointing thing about the food court is that it’s not designed well.  With Tampines 1 being such a new mall, you’d think they’d have put more effort into making the food court look appealing.  The food court at Suntec resembles a library.  The food court at Vivocity looks like a quaint, village shopping district.  The food court at Ion is decked out in gold chrome and white statues of animals.  This food court is rather bland.  I suppose their reasoning might have been that there are already food courts in the two other malls in the area which also have a bland design, so they didn’t need to put much thought into the one they built for Tampines 1.

Restaurants in the US often have a theme to enhance their appeal, but before coming to Singapore I couldn’t have cared less what a food court in a mall looked like, as long as the food was decent.  I’ve become accustomed to, and spoiled by, the level of detail Singaporeans put into designing their malls.

Yamazaki @ Tampines 1 Mall

With all of the times we’ve walked right by this place I can’t imagine why we never poked our head in to look around.  I guess it was the really fancy cakes they had in the display cases facing out towards the mall walkway.  Tampines 1 isn’t really the place I’d think of when I want good, but reasonably priced, baked goods.

However, with my time in Singapore fast coming to an end, I got curious and looked around inside.  I was surprised to see great prices and a great variety of sweet baked items.  There were things with chocolate cream, custard fillings and apple pies and it was all completely affordable.

We quickly loaded up a tray to take home with us.  We’re gonna have to go on some long runs this week to burn off these calories, but they were definitely worth it!

The custard was better than I’d hoped, the waffle was sweet and tasted like it’d go great in a bowl of vanilla ice cream, and the apple pie my wife picked out was incredible!

If you’re looking for some good quality pastry type items for a good price, I recommend this place.  You can even get some Japanese milk tea or cafe au lait from the cooler to wash down your pastry.

California Pizza Kitchen at KLCC Suria Mall

While we were in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend we decided to go down to KLCC to look around and have dinner.  We weren’t sure what we wanted to eat but as we were looking at the electronic store guide I saw that there was a California Pizza Kitchen in the mall.

Neither of us had ever eaten there before so we gave it a try, with mixed results.

The ambience is very, very nice.  The place has a clean, uncluttered, modern look that was refreshing and relaxing.  Also, the service staff was incredibly friendly and helpful.  No complaints there.

The food wasn’t too bad, I guess, but what bothered me about it is that everything was incredibly oily.

The first thing we ordered was an appetizer.  I think it was called an ‘avocado turkey bacon roll’ or something along those lines.  It’s the first item on the menu under appetizers.  It was described as a fusion between Eastern and Western flavors and was basically a cheesy, gooey, extra greasy egg roll.

While eating the thing the hot grease was running out of the roll all over my fingers and forming a small puddle on my plate.  That’s a definite no go.  Also, the taste of the oil was a bit overpowering, to the point that I couldn’t even distinguish the taste of the avocado.

In fact, in this second photo you can actually see the grease dripping from it.

Shortly after finishing the appetizer the pizza showed up.  We got a thin crust ‘Sicilian’ pizza.  Thin crust pizzas are usually less greasy than full crust pizzas.  Unfortunately that’s not the case with CPK’s thin crusts.  It was oily as well.  We went ahead and finished the pizza, but after the second slice I could’ve walked away from it.

My wife and I have changed our eating habits over the last year and we’re consuming less and less oily foods.  It’s better for us, and less oily foods taste better anyway.  I was reminded again of how good Trattoria’s pizzas are in that 313 @ Somerset mall in Singapore.  CPK’s offering wasn’t even in the same league and cost nearly the same price.