Spaghett-ular

Spaghett-ular

The list where you find me having a rare plate of pasta.
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Brunetti should be one of those names in the local dining scene that should not be too much of a stranger for foodies or those whom have been going around Tanglin Mall before its recent revamp — previously an establishment located within Tanglin Mall itself, Brunetti had been moving around in the past couple of years; this includes having been situated at the second level of CT Hub 2 at one point of time though lacking of that opulent vibe that it used to have in Tanglin Mall. They had since moved out of the CT Hub 2 location, and the brand is now known as Brunetti Oro 1956 — now located at the office lobby of Six Battery Road (not to be confused with the galleria area where Surrey Hills Deli and an outlet of MP Thai are located). Despite occupying a space in an office lobby, Brunetti Oro 1956 does have a fully- kitchen that serves up proper hot food; the dining space is also surprisingly large with the eatery spanning almost 3/4 of the length of the building at the side that it occupies. The entire establishment looks like refined and polished, but not in a way that is as exaggerated as what it was when they were still located in Tanglin Mall. It does seem that Brunetti Oro 1956 has trimmed down its menu offerings a little since their days of being a full-service establishment at Tanglin Mall — the hot food selection includes mostly Italian-inspired dishes like Aracini, Pasta and Pizza, though they also do carry a salad line-up as well. At Brunetti Oro 1956, patrons can also opt for the various cakes, macarons, entremets and danishes which are all displayed prominently at the display case / chiller located at the counter area. Beverages that are served at Brunetti Oro 1956 includes specialty coffee roasted specifically for Brunetti by Lavazza, as well as canned drinks, teas and fruit juices as well.

We dropped by Brunetti Oro 1956 on a weekday evening — this also meant that we were looking for some hot food to go for alongside cakes that would eventually become our dinner. Having skimmed through the various hot food options which they have to offer, we found ourselves sticking to a rather are and conventional choice that would be the Linguini Pasta with Portobello Mushroom Ragout. The Linguini Pasta with Portobello Mushroom Ragout is described on the menu to come with elements such as linguini pasta, portobello mushroom, black truffle ragout and freshly-shaved parmigiana. It is very apparent from the get-go that the Linguini Pasta with Portobello Mushroom Ragout is an item that would offer no surprises; the combination can be best described as being predictable to say the least. Giving the pasta a go, this was one pasta dish that would probably suit those with a lighter palate — the pasta used here does seem to be of a sort that is thinner than what we are used to getting at most other places; whilst this also meant that the pasta would not be particularly jelat, we also felt that the texture of the pasta was a little bit off for our liking since it just felt brittle. The mushroom ragout was earthy with a slight saltish note coming from the shaved parmigiana, though we did not quite detect the notes coming from the black truffle somehow.

Where it came to the cakes, our choice was the San Remo that features a light cheesecake mousse, strawberry jelly centre and a flourless pistachio sponge base. The flavours were interesting, with the nuttiness of the pistachio sponge base fronting that of the entire cake; the strawberry jelly giving a contrasting tanginess with the cheesecake providing just the right level of richness that binds everything together. That being said, the entremet’s texture was a little sticky a compared to what we have had from artisanal patisseries; the consistency being just a bit off from desired. One thing to note about Brunetti is that it does attempt to be an establishment that seems to be a little bit more upscale than that of the usual specialty coffee joints that often find themselves opening in the fringe of town or in some “posh” neighbourhoods — this is also pretty evident in the way where the food items are priced. Main courses are priced in the range of $13.90 all the way up to $25.90; the most affordable item being the Schiacciata; a Tuscan flatbread with wilted spinach, garlic, chili, cheese and confit tomatoes, while the priciest would be the Lasagne. Our order of the San Remo also set us back by another $12.90. Despite all that, one thing worth commending during our experience at Brunetti Oro 1956 was the service; the service staff were attentive, friendly and welcoming despite us being one of the last customers having walked in to make an order for a hot food item for the day — there was never a moment that we felt rushed to make an order, nor felt our late presence was a bother to them. Given the circumstances, Brunetti Oro 1956 is a spot that probably works best for business lunches without having to go all too fancy; a spot that would be formal enough without being all overwhelming while at it — probably also a reason why it found itself being situated in the heart of the Central Business District as well. Otherwise, a spot to hit for some good vibes and visually-attractive entremets if one works around the area and isn’t looking to head too far out to satisfy their cravings for fancy cakes too.

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Got to know about the new Just Pasta stall that had just sprouted up at the second level of Hong Lim Food Centre whilst scrolling around social media. Just Pasta takes over the former premises of the now-defunct BurGrill, which is also located right beside the stall tenanted by Midas Every Touch Is Gold — a stall which had originated from Kukoh 21 Food Centre that is best known for serving up baked prata. Just Pasta adopts an almost identical look to the tenants whom have previously occupied the stall before being taken over by Just Pasta; the signage being one with a black background and a white font, though the menu board can be found on the right as one approaches the stall rather than being hung on the top below the signboard. As the namesake of the stall suggests, Just Pasta is a stall that is focused on serving up pasta dishes — the creations at Just Pasta aren’t particularly fancy, with the offerings being more of familiar pasta dishes that are comforting rather than being all-out creative; think of choices like the Spaghetti Bolognese, several variations of the Aglio Olio and a Carbonara being listed. Interestingly, Just Pasta also does serve a number of sides for those whom are looking to share a dish across the table — this includes items like Spicy Popcorn Chicken, Onion Rings and Roasted Drum, just to name a few.

While we have been seeing an uprising of build-your-own-pasta establishments opening up even around the food courts and hawker centre locations within the Central Business District such as the likes of Swirled at Market Street Food Centre and Pasta Craft at China Square Food Court, Just Pasta isn’t quite that sort of concept. Where customisability of their pastas are of concern, Just Pasta only allows patrons to pick their choice of pasta type against the few variations of base selections that they have to offer; there isn’t the flexibility to mix-and-match sauces and the choice of meat / seafood here. For our order, we went for the Carbonara and opted for the Fusilli — other pasta types available at Just Pasta includes the spaghetti and the linguine. The pasta dishes are prepared a la minute here, and patrons are paged to collect their order via a buzzer that would be issued at the counter after the order has been placed and payment has been made.

Truth to be told, there really isn’t much to shout about when it came to the Carbonara; the Carbonara here belongs to the slightly wetter sort that locals might possibly enjoy — not the true-blue Italian type that may come with less sauce. It does seem that the Carbonara here is not too heavy on cream; the base seemingly almost reminiscent of something similar to a Cream of Mushroom without that much of an earthy note that would have made it feel weird — but this also made it fairly easy to finish considering how much sauce it comes in. One would also be able to find small slices of onions that helps to refresh the tastebuds and gives a bit of crunch factor, while the Carbonara sauce does also come a little peppery for a bit of heat without being exactly fiery. The strips of bacon were done a little chewy; we quite liked how the texture of the bacon here quite matches the Fusilli; also provides just the right touch of savouriness to the dish as well considering how it carried that typical saltish-ness that one would expect from cured meat. One thing we weren’t particularly a fan of was the use of plastic cutlery whilst being served a plastic plate for dine-in; just a mismatch that bothered our OCD for such things though its probably really down to a matter of preference and nothing major. That being said, it is a little difficult to convince ourselves to go for the Just Pasta’s offerings unless we are going for the plain Spaghetti Aglio Olio that is priced at $3.90; after all, Hong Lim Food Centre already has Eddy's that already serves up pasta at an affordable price tag — which makes our $9.90 Carbonara a little less convincing than it would be if it were to be in an area with more typical Western food offerings …

Had caught wind about the new Clovelly which had opened its doors in the past week — a spot that had seemingly been mentioned quite a fair bit on social media ever since they had commenced operations. For those whom are unaware, Clovelly takes over the former premises of the now-defunct Wimbly Lu at Jalan Riang — Wimbly Lu had ceased operations for all of its outlets fairly recently. Being located in the same stretch of shophouses as Bernie’s and also right beside the outlet of La Pizzaola at Jalan Riang, Clovelly requires a little bit of walking to get to from either Lorong Chuan MRT Station or Serangoon MRT Station alike. As one takes a look at Clovelly from the outside, the shophouse is still very recognisable from its days of being Wimbly Lu — most of the exterior fittings had been retained. The same can be said about the interior as well; the area that sees the glass ceiling allowing natural light to enter the cafe is largely familiar to what Wimbly Lu have had, though there is a noticeable change of furnishings where there was a mix and match of rustic furniture to compliment the interior decor. Clovelly is probably best described as a bistro serving up contemporary European fare; the items on the menu are split across categories such as Handcrafted Pastas, Appetisers, All Day Brunch, Mains and Sweets — we also noticed that they also do carry a range of gelato which is prominently displayed in their display chiller at the front of the restaurant. Beverages available at Clovelly includes specialty coffee, drinking chocolate, tea, wines, cocktails and soft drinks.

One thing that seemed really clear about Clovelly as one pays attention to the details in the whole set-up and in its menu is that Clovelly does seem like an establishment that places a lot of care in their pasta offerings. One glance around the entire establishment and one can easily find traces of their handmade pastas all around the space — some being prominently on display at a glass window that is situated beside an entrance, while there seems to be an entire glass room that is dedicated to pasta-making right beside the counter where one can also spot the the handmade pasta hung from above being in the process of drying. For all items that are listed on the Handmade Pasta section of the menu at Clovelly, patrons are offered a choice of four different pasta types to choose from — this would include the Handmade Mafalde (“Little Queens”), Handmade Gemelli (“Twins”), Spaghetti and Linguine. It is obvious that we would have went for either of the handmade pastas considering our love for all-things handmade; we eventually found ourselves settling with the Handmade Mafalde (“Little Queens”) for our order of the Mushroom Pesto. The menu describes the Mushroom Pesto to come with elements such as mushroom, basil, garlic, pine nuts, lime juice and olive oil — it is also being marked as one of the items on the menu which is vegetarian as well. Digging into the Mushroom Pesto, we knew that the choice of opting for the Handmade Mafalde (“Little Queens”) was a good call — the pasta was done al-dente as per what it should have been, but we really liked how there was a good bite considering how the pasta did came with a substantial thickness here. The pesto sauce catches on to the ridges of the Handmade Mafalde — this also meant that each and every strand of the pasta came with evident notes from the elements of the pesto sauce; a little zingy with evident notes of basil and a slight nuttiness from the pinenuts. All in all, a flavourful pesto that gets one yearning for more; well-coupled with the chunks of assorted mushrooms that gave a good bounce and earthy bite that made it really easy to eat.

We were actually blessed to have the opportunity to try out a number of dishes during our visit to Clovelly — we were served up with quite a number of complimentary dishes apart from our initial orders and we were incredibly stuffed from our meal at Clovelly. For items from the appetiser menu, the Truffle Fries and the Butter Clams Pot (served to us complimentary) were items that we had managed to try — between the two, we did feel that the Truffle Fries was a safer bet (duh, probably?). Whilst an item that is probably done over and over again by all sorts of F&B establishments over the years, the one at Clovelly is one that we were not disappointed with — here, the Truffle Fries came with a good shaving of parmesan cheese and comes with just the right drizzle of truffle oil for flavour. This means that the truffle fries here aren’t overwhelmed with the notes of pungent oil being all too soggy; they remained crisp whilst perfuming lightly of a truffle aroma that runs at the back of the tongue. For those whom need a flavour burst of truffle; the truffle aioli served on the side does exactly just that, adding a creamy texture amidst a slightly stronger note of truffle to satisfy the tastebuds. Another dish that we really had a liking for from the “All Day Brunch” section of the menu was the Mixed Mushroom Baked Eggs — the combination of melted mozzarella, caramelised onions, soft boiled eggs with a runny egg yolk and earthy mushrooms was especially umami and was pretty comforting with the country bread being the vehicle to mop up all the goodness in; we also liked how they did not use any cream-based sauce in the dish that would have otherwise inched it closer to being jelak. One things can be said about most dishes that we have had at Clovelly — there is a lot of emphasis placed in the making of elements from scratch here; a very evident case being in their handmade pasta which seems to be a highlight here, and it does show in the food quality. Prices of the pasta dishes at Clovelly ranges from $14.90++ to $24.90++ here; rather reasonable considering the effort place. Needless to say, a gem worth checking out despite the trek to experience what they have to offer!

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Micasa Kitchen & Bar was a spot that we recalled having visited when they had first opened at Jalan Jurong Kechil several years ago — these folks were pretty much a promising Spanish eatery that is priced at a slightly more wallet-friendly price point to cater to the residents in the surrounding neighbourhood. The entire dining landscape of Beauty World has changed quite substantially over the past couple of years since; the shophouse at 100 Jalan Jurong Kechil has seen quite a number of tenancy changes; the latest tenant to have moved into the afore-mentioned shophouse after the move of the outlet of Outram Park Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha (which has since relocated to the 7th Mile Coffee Shop at Toh Yi Drive) would be Mikey’s Taverna — a concept that is opened by the same folks behind Micasa Kitchen & Bar. Despite being a concept by the folks of Micasa Kitchen & Bar, Mikey’s Taverna is an entirely different concept to Micasa Kitchen & Bar itself; whilst Micasa Kitchen & Bar focusing on Spanish cuisine, Mikey’s Taverna is a concept inspired by Southern Italian culture — the interior of the shophouse it occupies exudes such vibes with its yellow-painted and brick walls which gives it an especially cosy and warm vibe. They have also maximised the seating area with outdoor al-fresco seating as well. For the menu at Mikey’s Taverna, it is being split into sections dedicated to Foccacia, Personal Pizza, Appetisers, Grilled, Pasta and desserts; beverages available at Mikey’s Taverna would include a good variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, with the selection of non-alcoholic drinks being coffee, tea, soft drinks and juices.

One item that seemed to have attracted our attention whilst skimming through the menu before we made our visit to Mikey’s Taverna was the Oxtail Ragu (Rigatoni) — an item which we found to be a little bit of an uncommon find at rather typical Italian establishments. The menu mentions that the default pasta type to come with the Oxtail Ragu would be the Rigatoni, though there are also different types of pasta that is being listed on the header of the menu which includes spaghetti, Fettucine, ravioli, rigatoni and gnocchi. The dish pretty much came as it is; basically just rigatoni, oxtail meat and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese that were on to the aesthetics of the dish. Despite its rather simple composition, we really enjoyed the texture and flavours of the dish; giving the Oxtail Ragu (Rigatoni) a toss, the Ragu readily gets mixed into the Rigatoni — this gives the pasta a lightly savoury bite that provides much of the flavours of the dish by itself. The Rigatoni is done al-dente; carried much bite and with a slight chew even. Meanwhile, the portion oxtail meat can be described as generous — itself being a good balance of lean and slightly more tender parts which gives the dish a variance of textures and a meaty, savoury note. The addition of the sprinkle of parmesan cheese adds yet another dimension of savouriness to the dish; further elevating the entire experience. Overall, a pasta that would probably appeal more towards the meat lovers considering the nature of the dish.

Apart from the Oxtail Ragu (Rigatoni), we had also given some dishes from other categories of the menu a try as well; this would include the Organic Blue Mussels, as well as the Lemon Tart. Both dishes were pretty enjoyable; the Organic Blue Mussels came with elements such as wine and tomatoes, as well as garlic bread. Given how much we are a fan of mussels, this dish was pretty satiating — from how fresh the mussels were, to how balanced that wine-infused broth was, it was a joy for us to have. Having tried different variants of mussel dishes that are served at other establishments all around, we did notice that the broth here felt a little bit more mellowed down in terms of the alcoholic content — this meant that the broth carried a more garlicky note, though is also one that is less briny somewhat. The Lemon Tart itself was a great ending to our meal at Mikey’s Taverna though — we liked how the tart was pretty much fuss-free; no meringue layer, and came without any unnecessary embellishments for the aesthetic factor. The lemon curd itself came with a good zing and a balanced note of sweetness; all that sitting above a soft and thin layer of crust that did not require much effort to break, and crumbled really neatly without disintegrating into a mess. We also tasted a rather noticeable egginess that came with the Lemon Tart as well. Mikey’s Taverna may be a new establishment, but it does carry the same character and personality that Micasa Kitchen & Bar has been known for over the years — one that is pretty laid-back and chill, whilst serving up homely fare that is comforting and speaks to the soul. This is not forgetting that the price point of the dishes are wallet-friendly to say the least — the prices of the pasta ranges from $18 to $36, while the prices of the personal pizzas are between $16 to $18. With a clear emphasis on using fresh ingredients, preparing their dishes from scratch — it is easy to feel the passion and effort that they have placed to deliver the best to their patrons just like how things are like at MiCasa Kitchen & Bar. Reservations are recommended, considering we were only left with the counter seats and outdoor seats whilst walking in on a weekend dinner service.

Osteria BBR had been a spot that I have been wanting to make a visit for a long while; glad to have finally made the visit thanks to a chance opportunity of a spontaneous dinner where it was only arranged a day before. Entering from “patio” area at the back of Raffles Hotel, the main entrance to Osteria BBR is tucked at the side of the building; stepping into the restaurant and one will be greeted with a clean aesthetic that sees white and red being the main colours used throughout the entire restaurant. There is really a great incorporation of the building’s style against the interior decor of the restaurant — the colonial-era elements such as the windows seemingly blending well into the modern aesthetic so well; the middle of the space being dedicated to the kitchen and food preparation area, while the dine-in area surrounds that afore-mentioned area so diners can get to see the action going on without being seated by the counter seats. Visiting Osteria BBR during dinner service, they serve up both an ala-carte menu and a prix fixe set menu — the former being segmented into sections such as Antipasti, Pasta E Risotto, Pizza, Da Condividere (i.e. sharing plates), Secondi Piatti (i.e. main course), and Dolci (i.e. dessert). They also do have an extensive list of alcoholic beverages available; patrons can also opt to have coffee to go along with their dessert if they wish.

There were several highlights to our meal at Osteria BBR, but our favourite would possibly be the Mezzi Paccheri Alla Guancia Di Manzo E Barolo. The dish features Paccheri pasta and Barolo-braised beef cheek; one would not be wrong to call this Osteria BBR’s rendition of a braised beef cheek pasta. The waitress had asked us if we would like our pasta to be done al-dente or slightly past al-dente; the reason being the Paccheri pasta being a little thick and it being done al-dente meant that it could be a little firm to some — ordering the pasta to be done slightly past al-dente would bring it closer to the texture of a typical pasta that is done al-dente. We eventually requested for our order to be done in the normal way (i.e. al dente). Being a tube-shaped pasta, the Paccheri pasta carried quite a bit of bite — we could see why the waitress had forewarned us about the texture of the pasta and asked us for our preferences earlier; that being said, we totally enjoyed it being al-dente, considering how it was pretty toothsome with all the tender and savoury braised beef chunks that saw the infusion of red wine in the braising process. The braising liquid pretty much acted as a “sauce” to the pasta, giving the pasta this luscious flavour — the braised beef adding that meaty touch without being particularly gamey. All in all, a really enjoyable dish that we found comfort in.

Our meal at Osteria BBR is nothing short of enjoyable — other items that really stuck an impression with us were the Polpo, Spuma Di Patate, Profumi Mediterranei (i.e. Octopus, potato foam, Mediterranean scent), Costoletta Di Vitello Alla Milanese, Insalata Di Rucola E Pomodorini (i.e. Veal chop Milanese-style, arugula salad, cherry tomatoes) and the Baba Al Limoncello, Panna Montata (i.e. Signature baba, limoncello, whipped cream) — the Polpo, Spuma Di Patate, Profumi Mediterranei featuring a well-executed octopus leg that carried a good bite with a bit of crisp char on the outside that is in no way rubbery, while the Costoletta Di Vitello Alla Milanese, Insalata Di Rucola E Pomodorini had a golden-brown batter yet with the flesh done with a pinkish centre; crisp on the exterior and tender inside; the exterior crust somewhat bearing a resemblance to Hainanese-style biscuit-battered pork chops that we found to especially appealing. The Baba Al Limoncello, Panna Montata ended the meal beautifully; one of the most subtle Rum Baba that we have came across to-date where it wasn’t too overwhelmingly heavy on the alcohol, and carried a gingery undertone in its finish that was pretty refreshing. It is without a doubt that we would find ourselves craving for quite a number of the items that we have had at Osteria BBR — the experience was a good one on the food, but made even better with the service crew that knows their stuff; takes pride in introducing the items for guests to make a decision on what to order, yet willing to engage in small talk with patrons at appropriate times. A spot that works for dates, anniversaries or just a fancy catch-up; definitely a spot we would like to return to again!

It was pretty much a shame that Rascals at PSA Tanjong Pagar Complex had since shuttered — a spot that we really quite like when we made our visit just several months ago when they had first opened their doors; a gastrobar that serves up contemporary Asian cuisine. Since its closure, the space has now been taken over by yet another gastrobar — this time being Overworked Gastrobar which seems to have inherited much of whatever that Rascals had left behind when they had vacated the space; there has been little changes to both the facade of the shop unit (with the exception of the change of signages) and the furniture and fittings within, which gives the space that slightly raw look that it used to have with its previous tenant. Being a gastrobar that serves up Western and Asian fusion fare, the menu at Overworked Gastrobar is segmented into sections such as Starters, Overworked Burgers (featuring a homemade brioche bun), Breakfast, Entree, Light Bites (i.e. finger food that goes with booze), Signature Potato Rosti, Protein Poke Bowl and Dessert (i.e. a variety of Gelato on Homemade Waffle). The beverages menu at Overworked Gastrobar includes non-alcoholic options such as alcohol-free wine, house-made concoctions, floral tea, and kombucha from Wild Boocha; they also do serve coffee using beans roasted by local cafe, State of Affairs, which is located at 183 Longhaus at Upper Thomson Road. The alcoholic beverages menu would comprise of various types of wine, beer and hard liquor.

Being an item on the menu that is listed with two thumbs up, the Johnny Nutmetto was an item that we found ourselves going for since it is pretty much a strong recommendation on the menu. The Johnny Nutmetto is a Cold Seafood Pasta which consists of elements such as Cold Angel Hair Pasta, Asari Clams, Vannamei Prawn, Seabass Slices and a Chef’s Secret Nutmetto Relish. Served with the plate also chilled, the Johnny Nutmetto is a dish that is quite unlike any other that we have had thus far — the Cold Angel Hair Pasta is tossed with the Chef’s Secret Nutmetto Relish here; the relish being a tangy, nutty mix that probably involved tomatoes(?) and peanut sauce(?) that gives off a flavour profile that is almost similar to that of sauces typically found in Hong Kong-style chee cheong funs that comes with the “trio sauce”. The relish, which also gives the dish and Western-Asian fusion, comes slightly spicy — it isn’t that sort that gives a fiery kick, but certain enough to tingle the taste buds and should work fine even for those with lower tolerance to spiciness; something which we found to be particularly fitting with the seafood elements of the pasta. The Cold Angel Hair Pasta here is done to a slightly softer consistency than what we are used to — carried a good chew that somehow fits the context here where it is done as a cold pasta. Thought that the portion of seafood is pretty reasonable, with a good portion of Asari Clams, Vannamei Prawn and Seabass Slices thrown into the mix so every twirl with the fork ends up with some seafood laced within. A rather appetising dish that could also work as a starter to share with a larger group of diners as well.

Having tried other dishes such as the Plaster Cheesy Ham Rosti at Overworked Gastrobar, we did find their Western and Asian fusion fare to be somewhat playful and inventive — the Plaster Cheesy Ham Rosti being their own fusion take where Rosti meets Plaster Prata, which sees a sunny side-up plastered on the Rosti. Overall, the fusion fare here can be pretentious to some; that being said, they do seem to make sense while at it — probably shows a lot on their R&D process whilst coming up with the dishes. Coffee needs quite a bit of work however; the use of beans roasted by State of Affairs for their coffee offerings is something which deserves some cred — that being said, we do wish that they could probably invest in a better machine and having a proper barista in order to make the best use of the beans that they have got. Overworked Gastrobar was a tad empty when we had visited them on a Friday evening; that is despite all the posts that seemed to be making its rounds of social media of the late — a little bit of a sad sight for a spot meant for after-work drinks. That being said, this makes for a great space for catch-ups over some drinks and fun fusion fare to go along till it starts to get buzzy with a crowd — somewhere which we would not mind revisiting if in the area.

Wisteria Mall at Yishun had seen a slight switch up of tenants ever since our last visit to the mixed-use development — gone are some of tenants such as Wild Wood Cafe and the Kopitiam food court within the mall. While the food court remains vacated, Eighteen Chefs Express has since taken over the former premises of the now-defunct Wild Wood Cafe. Builders Cafe had also recently ceased operations within the mall (their outlet at Sims Place named Builders at Sims still remains in operation), and has since re-branded itself as Not Just Mee. The re-branding exercise does seem like a hasty job; whilst most of the furnishing and fittings has been retained, the menu board does seem to be handwritten, while all decor and fittings that previously referred to Builders Cafe have since been replaced by that of Not Just Mee. The food menu at Not Just Mee comprises of Sides, Pasta, Rice Bowl and Desserts — it is however worth nothing that the Pasta section of the menu does comprise of some options that are noodle dishes that may not necessarily belong to the said category such as the Japanese Soba with Seabass which features soba noodles, the Viet Beef Pho which features Kway Tiao, and the Korean Ramen that features ramen noodles. Beverages available at Not Just Mee includes specialty coffee (brewed using beans from local roastery Dutch Colony Coffee Co.), artisanal tea, and a whole list of other beverages that also comprises of flavoured “Sprite Yakut” drinks, milkshakes, sodas and even a small variety of beers. Apart from the deserts being listed in the Desserts section of the menu, Not Just Mee also does carry a small selection of cakes that they have sourced from KURA Patisserie which had recently moved from The Herencia at Kim Yan Road to South Bridge Road — something that Builders Cafe had been doing at the Wisteria Mall outlet previously as well.

Being one of the dishes listed on the Pasta menu, this is also one that comes with a fusion component; the Tomyum Pasta also comes with elements such as linguine, fresh clams, prawns and Tom Yum Cream as described on the menu. Digging in to the plate of pasta, there is no denying how this a well-executed plate of pasta with a fusion element — here, the Tom Yum Cream manages to achieve a really good consistency; there are places that serve up their Tom Yum pasta with a Tom Yum Cream that is either too creamy or too diluted. It is just at that right level without being too jelak, yet not being so dilute that it doesn’t lace together with the linguine — the Tom Yum Cream carrying that zing and tang with a mildly spicy kick that kept us yearning for more. The linguine is done al-dente here; not too soft nor was it brittle; the fresh clams and prawns being especially fresh and carries a natural hint of sweetness on its own — also thought that they did provide enough seafood for the price at $16.90++ as well. Overall, the Tomyum Pasta did manage to check all of the right boxes for us — a dish that we spent no effort at all in mopping up the entire plate clean.

Builders Cafe may be a recognisable name within the local cafe scene and it is certainly a shame to see them no longer being in operations at least in Wisteria Mall — great cafes in the North are certainly hard to come by, but Not Just Mee is an interesting concept that delivers on the same to the residents of Yishun; great noodle dishes that are well-designed and can be said as a wholesome offering that would suit well for both lunch and dinner. We were pretty satiated by both noodle dishes we have had here — the Tomyum Pasta, as well as the Viet Beef Pho; the latter with a light but flavourful broth with slippery Kway Tiao that is especially comforting, and a great complimenting dish to have with the Tomyum Pasta considering how one emphasises on heavier flavours while the other comes really light and clean. There are other dishes that also intrigued us that we have not ordered — think dishes such as the Corn Tempura and Mussels with Marsala Sauce; probably a next visit to Not Just Mee would be needed!

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Dropped by the new Musette that had opened fairly recently at Thye Hong Centre — the building itself is situated just a short walk away from Redhill MRT Station, and is pretty much the first building along Tiong Bahru Road that leads up to the new car dealerships up Leng Kee Road. Musette Cafe shares its premises with an upcoming fine-dining establishment that takes up a separate corner of the the same shop space named Full Circle by J.Man; both concepts are by the same folks behind one Michelin-starred 28Wilkie and Twenty Eight Cafe that are located at Sophia Flats at 28 Wilkie Road, just behind Wilkie Edge. Being their second concept, Musette bears a slightly different aesthetic than that of Twenty Eight Cafe; while the interior of Twenty Eight Cafe does blend it pretty well being situated in colonial-era building, the design of Musette seems to take on a slightly more industrial approach with a darker interior, as well as cement walls and metallic fittings — overall a more industrial look in comparison. It is also interesting that Musette also serves a rather different menu than that of Twenty Eight Cafe — Musette Cafe’s food menu is split into sections dedicated to All Day Breakfast, Salad, Mains (from 11am onwards only), and Sides — most of dishes seemingly being exclusive to Musette though there are some items such as the Pandan Souffle and Smoked Salmon Souffle that are extensions of what Twenty Eight Cafe serves up; the list of non-alcoholic beverages include specialty coffee, chocolate/Matcha/Houjicha options, juices, milkshakes, tea, soft drinks and mocktails. Alcoholic beverages include beer on tap, cocktails, spirits and wines as well. For those looking for some form of light bites here, they do offer a variety of viennoiserie that is on display at the counter.

Having caught the word “Orzo” in the Mushroom Orzo Pasta, we knew that this was an item that we cannot simply give a miss after skimming through the menu here. The Mushroom Orzo Pasta is described on the menu to come with elements such as mushroom, sous vide egg, fried kale and parmesan; other elements that we have noticed on the plate here includes pine nuts as well. We are big fans of Orzo pasta grains here; for those who are unfamiliar with Orzo, they are a type of pasta that is shaped almost like rice grains — a wise choice of pasta here considering how this gives a risotto-esque feel with a good bite. The orzo grains do come with a light drizzle of balsamic; this provides a slight tang to the pasta that gives it a bit of a flavour contrast against the lightly creamy notes it does come with. The inclusion of pine nuts provides a contrast of texture against the orzo; lending the dish a soft crunch that compliments the textures of the orzo. They seem to be pretty generous with the chunks of mushrooms in the pasta here; these gave a good bouncy bite and gave the pasta an earthy note, while the fried kale provides a lightly crisp texture that tops it all off pretty well. Breaking up that sous vide egg reveals a creamy and runny yolk; mix it up with all that beneath and it binds all the elements up with a silkier texture. The dish comes topped off with shaved parmesan; provides just that right level of saltishness for a savoury touch. All in all, a very well-executed pasta dish that we could not get enough of.

Having tried Twenty Eight Cafe previously when they have first started operations, we must say that Musette does feel like an establishment where they have taken much of their experience in running Twenty Eight Cafe, and refined them further for a better experience here. For one, we do find the Mushroom Orzo Pasta being executed well above our initial expectations — one that has taken into account flavours and textures for a cohesive experience which we thought was a great effort on its own. We were also very impressed with the level of service here — whilst one may attribute it to them having the time since we were one of two groups of pax dining in during our visit, they did manage to give us a short introduction to the concept and a short tour around Full Circle by J.Man; also gave us an introduction of the dish each time our order is served. Overall Musette has probably nailed almost everything right for now — it will be pretty interesting to see if they would be able to keep things consistent or even further elevate the dining experience from here. Would most certainly be back again for the Ebi Katsu Sando; that certainly was something that caught our eyes which we are eager to return to for some other time!

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Lola’s shouldn’t be an unfamiliar name in the local F&B scene these days — having been in operations as Lola’s Cafe for a number of years now, Lola’s had finally expanded its main brand after the introduction of several other notable brands over the years; these include the now-defunct On The Table previously at Pasir Panjang Road, the now-defunct Suzette previously at The Esplanade, as well as Dumpling Darlings which operates at Amoy Street and Circular Road, and Lucky Dumplings at ION Orchard. With the opening of their newest space at Lorong Mambong in Holland Village which takes over the former premises of the now-defunct JOMO, Lola’s has also introduced an updated logo that is also used at the original spot at Kovan. Occupying a shop unit that consists of two levels at Lorong Mambong, Lola’s Cafe had completed redesigned the space; the first level is pretty much reserved for outdoor dining — the indoor space at the ground level being a more of a service area with the espresso bar and cake counter taking up most of the space there, while the second level is the main indoor dining hall. The interior is decked in a rather earthy tone that is soothing to the eyes with use of terracotta and wooden elements; lots of greenery is also used to create a look that is close to nature. Those who have visited Lola’s at Kovan might find the menu served at their new outpost at Lorong Mambong somewhat familiar; the menu is split into several sections where the items listed in the All-Day, Dessert and Waffles section of the menu are available throughout its operating hours, while the dishes on the Brunch section are available from 9am to 3pm. The Pasta section of the menu, which is exclusively available at Lorong Mambong, is available from both 9am to 3pm, and from 5:30pm to 9:30pm, while the Dinner items are available only from 5:30pm to 9:30pm. Whilst most of the items do seem to be carried from their existing menu at Kovan, the Lorong Mambong outlet does serve a few exclusive items — this includes the Tsukune Sando in the Brunch section of the menu.

Also exclusive to the menu at Lorong Mambong in the Dinner section of the menu would be the Mushroom & Ricotta Ravioli that we have decided to go for. Being much of a fan of ravioli, this was a clear draw for us considering how it featured elements such as Handmade Mushroom & Ricotta Ravioli, Brown Butter, Fried Sage, Walnuts, Parmesan, Wine — sage, brown butter and walnuts being things that we especially love to have in a ravioli dish. We were initially rather sceptical about how the dish would turn out, but was left really surprised by how well-executed these were — the handmade ravioli served here does seem bigger than what we are used to having at other establishments. We also liked how the pasta was well-made; not too doughy nor chewy, but does hold up to the mushroom and ricotta fillings pretty well — the mushroom providing a slightly qq-texture and an earthy flavour profile that matches against the savoury brown butter sauce that is spiked sigh a little bit of parmesan pretty well. The fried sage gives a slight twist of textures; somewhat crisp, yet carries a distinct herb-y note that adds on to the brown butter sauce — all that whilst the walnuts helped to add a bit of nuttiness and a crunch factor to the dish. All in all, a dish that we thoroughly enjoyed given how it attempts to hit a multitude of textures and flavours to provide that extra “oomph”.

Always had that impression that Lola’s serves pretty decent food, but at a rather safe level — the impression of our meals at Lola’s at Kovan previously were more of decent cafe fare at a rather affordable price, though nothing much to shout about in general. Having dropped by their new Lorong Mambong outlet, we did feel that they have since progressed beyond the standards that we have expected them to be at — the Mushroom & Ricotta Ravioli was actually really well-executed and could certainly compare against what some bistros were serving up previously as well. Perhaps the rise in standards stems from their experience gained over time especially with the success of Dumpling Darlings — we are definitely seeing some sort of a change from what they were when they first started out as Lola’s Cafe in Kovan. It goes without saying that their latest outpost at Lorong Mambong would be a destination that cafe-hoppers should put in the list of places to check out — that being said, we do feel like those whom probably have given them a go several years ago should make a timely revisit as well; we are truly impressed with how they are like now, and would certainly return for more when the time allows for it!

Checked out the new Cafe Hachi that had very recently opened their doors at 35 North Canal Road — the matcha-centric cafe is located within same stretch as PUNCH which is located just a few units away. Hailing from Fukoka, Japan, this Singapore outpost is also their very first location that is situated outside of Japan. Unlike other matcha-centric spots that we are familiar with locally, the decor at Cafe Hachi does seem to be a little darker than what one would usually associate such places with — dimmer lighting agains concrete walls and furniture with a darker wooden accent, it is actually pretty easy to the eyes and sets a slightly more upscale vibe as compared to the other matcha-centric spots around. Serving up hot food aside from matcha-related desserts, think Cafe Hachi as an establishment closer to the style of Nana Green Tea rather than the likes of Hvala, Matchaya or even Tsukiji — the menu features both vegan and non-vegan mains, as well as vegan desserts and matcha-based desserts. The list of beverages here includes different types of Matcha — something which isn’t too surprising considering their focus here.

Having skimmed through the menu here, we went for the Mentai Pasta since there was quite a list of items that were unavailable during our visit. Being one of the most basic pasta dishes that is listed on their menu, the dish comprises of pasta, cod roe and butter. Based on the description directly quoted from the online menu, the spaghetti used here is said to be “made with aged noodles from Awaji Island” — did not feel much of a difference about the spaghetti here from usual ones; that being said, they were done al-dente, and we really loved how giving the entire dish a good toss brings all the elements together. That savouriness from the butter sauce with the briny notes of mentai — it is nothing short of flavoursome despite its rather plain aesthetic; simple but hearty.

Whilst Cafe Hachi does seem like a fairly promising establishment, it is important to set the expectations right — Cafe Hachi isn’t quite the spot to head to for those who bear expectations of it being an establishment meant for the true matcha lover; at least based on what we have ordered. In retrospect where establishments such as Hvala, 108 Matcha Saro and Matchaya may appeal more towards the matcha purist considering the intensity of their matcha and matcha-related items, Cafe Hachi seems to sit in the category of a matcha specialty shop-cum-Japanese Deli where they are more positioned towards the general market. Do also expect teething issues as well since they are fairly new — prices on their printed menu do not tally with the online menu (they go by the price on the online menu); the online menu also did not display the full range of hot food initially until the staff reset the system. Also of particular note is how the dessert counter does not seem to receive tickets for the hot food orders, so do expect wait staff to come by asking if mains would like to be ordered even though orders have been placed for hot food and dessert. Still, Cafe Hachi does seem like a spot good for a girl’s day out or even for brunch dates — hoping that the teething issues will sort out as they ease into their operations as time passes.

Pretty new to the cafe scene of the late is Amika Cafe and Bar; taking over the former premises of Two Bakers at Teck Chye Terrace, Amika Cafe & Bar is located a few a couple of bus stops away from NEX, Serangoon MRT Station and Serangoon Bus Interchange. For those whom have visited Two Bakers at this location previously, the interior of Amika Cafe & Bar remains pretty much the same as what it was during the tenancy of the previous operator. Despite being largely similar to what it was previously, the placement of the furnishings do somewhat differ — gone is the cake display that used to be placed near the entrance at some point of time; there is also a side table near the entrance that has some Thai ornaments on display. Being pretty much a cafe and bar, Amika’s menu features starters/sharing plates, all-day brunch items and mains — some of which carrying a Thai influence such as that of the Spicy Tamarind Pork Pasta and the Zaap Fries that we have ordered; other more westernised items that are available here includes the Rosti Sausage and Amika Burger; just to name a few. Beverages at Amika Cafe and Bar are largely limited to non-alcoholic ones — a little surprising considering how they do call themselves a bar; patrons can expect a variety of specialty coffee, tea and mocktails available here.

Of the various mains that are available at Amika Cafe & Bar, it was clear that the Spicy Tamarind Pork Pasta had already caught our attention as we skimmed through the menu before deciding to head in. The Spicy Tamarind Pork Pasta consists of elements such as spaghetti that is tossed in a homemade spicy tamarind sauce that is mildly spicy with grilled marinated Kurobuta Pork. First taste of the pasta and we liked how the pasta is done al-dente; the pasta being coated with the savoury yet tangy tamarind sauce that can be said to be similar to that of an Assam sauce with some depth — the sauce being suitably spicy and should do fine even for those who have a low tolerance to spiciness. The Kurobuta Pork Belly is well-marinated; savoury whilst being pretty gelatinous around the fatty parts — does require some effort to chew but it is still juicy and considerable tender. An item that is pretty unique, and something which one would probably be not able to find elsewhere.

The closure of Two Bakers at Teck Chye Terrace may be said as a loss to the residents around Serangoon for a spot that serves pretty decent brunch and bakes in the neighbourhood; that being said, Amika Cafe and Bar does fill up this void rather decently — not only do they serve up what most would consider usual brunch fare at a decent price point (most all-day brunch items and main fall below $22 here), they do have some items that does seem rather unique here. No doubt that are better cafes around the island, but Amika Cafe & Bar would probably cut it for those staying around the area who is looking for a hangout in their own neighbourhood for a leisurely brunch over the weekend.

A few newly-opened cafes have been making their rounds across social media recently and one of them is Blue Balls Cafe — a bike-themed cafe that is situated at 44 Pasir Panjang Road. For those whom are unfamiliar with the area, the cafe takes up a stand-alone space with the same grounds as Anytime Fitness Pasir Panjang, and is located pretty close by to the Pasir Panjang outpost of Eat 3 Bowls as well. Having an al-fresco dining area that is pretty much only sheltered by an awning, as well as an outdoor dining area apart from the main indoor dining hall, the al-fresco dining area does seem to be pet-friendly, whilst patrons who are less keen to sit in the area can actually choose to sit in the outdoor area that is accessible through the indoor dining hall. The cafe does exude some industrial vibes with the large use of brick walls and cemented floors, as well as the mix of metallic and wooden furnishing and fittings — does somewhat remind us a little of Wheeler’s Yard where a similar approach was used as well; from the colours of the walls to the hanging of the bicycle parts. Walking into the dine-in area, one is greeted by a display rack of biking apparel that showcases the items available for retail; on the other side, the display chiller is stocked with the cakes and wraps available for the day. The menu here features hot food ranging from mains (mostly meat, fish or poultry dishes), burgers and pastas, as well as soup and salads, bites that are good to share at the table, and a small selection of desserts. Beverages include smoothies, specialty coffee, teas from Teapigs Tea from UK and canned drinks; just to name a few.

While one can argue that a lot of thought was placed in the decor and environment of the cafe, the food could be said as something that probably has some room for improvement. While the Grand Tour Fish & Chips that we had was rather uninspiring, the Echelon Mussels Pasta left a slightly better impression. Featuring elements such as mussels, white wine, butter, garlic, chili, parsley and linguine, the broth that the linguine was tossed in had that slight alcoholic zing that made it taste pretty close to a rather decent Vongole — all that spiked with a bit of spiciness coming from the bird’s eye chili that they have included for the kick. That being said, we felt that the noodles could do with a bit more cooking time for that truly al-dente texture, while the quality of the mussels could admittedly been better since the quality just seemed to vary between the pieces that were in our plate.

A lot of the hype on Blue Balls Cafe seems to be placed on the interior — no doubt a very conducive environment which we found ourselves enjoying and even staying for longer than we would usually. Whilst we only tried a select few items off their menu, we felt that their offerings seem a little generic and just doesn’t seem to be made to impress — probably something that may appease the most basic of taste buds, though mostly a tad off for the seasoned cafe hopper. Nonetheless, they have done quite a good job with the interior here; something that is likely to attract avid cafe hoppers as well as bike enthusiasts alike — though one should manage their expectations on the food which could do with more attention to details here.

Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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