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An Introduction
The Simplest Aphrodisiac

Flavours of the Month

Flavours of the Month
Rocks Urban Grill & Bar

Overseas Trips

Overseas Trips
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The A List

The A List
Featuring the Best

The Simplest Aphrodisiac: Best of the Year 2009

31 December 2009

I think the best way to wrap up a good year for this food blog is to present to you what has been the best of the year. While there has only been about 180 food-related posts, certainly not an extensive list at all, I still feel that it would be appropriate (and good fun!) to showcase my favourites of 2009. Moreover, I'm quite sure that creating an honorary roll like this would motivate me further as I continue my search for some of the most delicious food in this little island many of us call home. 2010, or at least the second-half of it, would also mark the end of my "student budget" and I can just imagine the sheer pleasure of indulging in even more delightful gastronomic experiences. For now, the list is only 180-long, and these are the best of the best!

Best Meal of 2009: Gordon Grill @ Goodwood Park Hotel

You have heard me rave about it just a week ago and here it is once again, claiming the top spot for 2009. It is never easy to find a place where you can have a complete meal so satisfying and so complete, but Gordon Grill managed to do that with ease for me. The lovely onion rolls, the fresh scallops, the oh-so-tender beef tenderloin and the amazing crème brûlée were quite simply fantastic. Pair that with great service and you've got yourself a lovely treat. [Review]

Best Lunch of the Year: Gordon Grill @ Goodwood Park Hotel

Naturally, Gordon Grill would have the honor of this title as well. The lunch was part of a UOB Cardmember lunch promotion, priced at a most reasonable $68++ for two. I'm aware that many would try to make a comparison between Gordon and Morton Steakhouse (Mandarin Oriental), I've to admit that I've not been to the latter, so stay tuned and soon enough you'd find me writing a post about Morton! Till then, cheers to Gordon Grill! [Review]

First Runner-Up: Zac's Cafe
Delicious Meditteranean food at lunch sets starting from $9.90++. Say yes to good food at a good price! Definitely one of the better grills out there, and I find the food refreshingly different from my daily fare. [Review]

Second Runner-Up: Big D's Grill
Quality Western food at a heartland coffeeshop, certainly something worth trying if you're in the area. The crabmeat linguine is one of its bestsellers, with a good mix of both sour and spicy. I enjoyed the beer-battered fish and chips, simple but really quite delish. [Review]

Best Dinner of the Year: Summer Pavilion @ Ritz Carlton Millenia

This was where I celebrated the then-girlfriend's birthday, and the dinner at Summer Pavilion really turned out way better than expected. Simple dishes no doubt, but done so close to perfection that you would be full of praise for the masters behind these dishes. The Peking Duck rivals the one served at Hai Tien Lo from Pan Pacific Hotel, while the king prawn and wok-fillet of beef were sublime. [Review]

First Runner-Up: Ah Loy Thai
This is a hidden gem at Shaw Centre, which serves pretty authentic-tasting Thai dishes at very affordable prices. Other Thai places would often have hits and misses but I think Ah Loy Thai is one of the most balanced ones of them all! Tom yum soup and fried rice are just two of the "must-tries" if you're here. [Review]

Second Runner-Up: Seah Street Deli
Ah, burgers, I love them beefy, juicy burgers. Seah Street Deli from Raffles Hotel does them well, with yummy pairings of thick fries or smooth mashed potatoes. [Review]

Best Desserts of the Year: Checkers Deli @ Hilton Hotel

The good thing about food blogger outings is that you get to sample a splendid variety of cakes, simply because we love one another and we share! Amongst the number of (mostly teatime) desserts that I've taken so far, I would say Checkers narrowly edges out 1 Caramel because of it's better balance of note-worthy cakes and tarts. My big favourites include the Lemon Tart and the Snicker's Cake. [Review]

First Runner-Up: 1 Caramel
A great place to chill out on a sunny afternoon with your friends. Most of the "winners" here are ladies' favourites: the Red Miso Soufflé, the Lychee Rose and the Strawberry Shortcake. [Review]

Second Runner-Up: Privé Bakery and Cafe
Admittedly, I've only tried two desserts here, but I'm already won over. The Profiteroles are simply lovely, certainly one of the best that I've tried so far. Many blogs have praised some of Privé's other desserts, so I think it deserves this spot. You can be sure I'll be back here for more soon! [Review]

Best Burger of the Year: Dallas Restaurant & Bar

Sure, you may not find the Best Brunch of the Year (but I'm sure you will see many brunch-related posts in 2010!) this time round, so I thought I would just add two categories specially for two things that you know I love - burgers and ice-cream! The Best Burger of the Year goes to the Wagyu Beef Burger from Dallas Restaurant & Bar, a burger that was so thick, juicy and tender that I thought was out of this world! Well, it's Wagyu-grade beef after all! [Review]

First Runner-Up: Seah Street Deli
As I mentioned earlier, good burgers. Maybe more creativity on the menu could make Seah Street Deli stand-out from the rest of the burger joints. Promising indeed, but it shouldn't rest on its laurels. Bring it on fellas! [Review]

Second Runner-Up: Privé Bakery and Cafe
Another Wagyu beef patty, fresh but would have been better if done less rare! The drawback? Where's the fries! Burgers must always come with fries! That aside, evenly-grilled and tasty enough to bring a smile to my face. [Review]

Best Ice-Cream: Udders Ice-Cream

Other than my all-time favourite Ben & Jerry's, I thought I would include some others as well. Udders Ice-Cream continues to impress with each visit, but I'm still very much enamoured to its Snickers Mars Honeycomb Vanilla flavour - a mix of everything sweet, crunchy and delicious. I hear some of their alcholic concoctions are worth a try too! [Review]

First Runner-Up: Cold Rock Ice-Creamery
Here, the art of selection counts, a lot. Take plenty of time to think through your flavours and toppings before you enter the queue - and you will be pleasantly rewarded! [Review]

Second Runner-Up: The Daily Scoop
For those who prefer smoother ice-creams with less bits and chunks in them, there's always The Daily Scoop along Sunset Way. The durian-flavoured ice-cream is a favourite amongst my friends, but if you love your chocolate like me, there's always Hazelnut or Kookie Monster. Best enjoyed on a sunny day! [Review]

And so, there you have it - the favourites and the best this blog has to offer for 2009. There will definitely be so much more to come in 2010 (I'm not only promising you but I'm also promising myself!) and I'm looking forward as well to even more food bloggers' outings with my new found friends! For my dear readers, thank you so much for your lovely support all this while, do keep reading and if you would like, start talking to me too! Stay tuned as I try to come up with a blog outing within the first quarter of 2010 :)

With all that said and done, here's wishing everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR! :)

Yours Sincerely,
Harris Chai
Author & Food Blogger
The Simplest Aphrodisiac


28 December 2009

Me and my friends meant to try the dim sum at Taste Paradise, but because they only serve it during lunch we decided to head to Canton-i instead for dinner. Interestingly in the recent weekend, Wong Ah Yoke on The Sunday Times Lifestyle rated Canton-i as one of the worst mid-priced restaurants of the year, and to be honest I think that's a bit too harsh. I personally don't think anyone of us is in the position to give "the worst" awards, especially not on the national newspaper right!

Seafood Fried Rice: 3.75/5

The seafood fried rice with eggs, scallops and seafood came in a hot stone bowl and it was still sizzling an hour after it arrived. Everyone around the table was clearly envious over my little gem, not least because it smelled good and looked more promising than their own dishes. I did away with the usual addition of the (pork) chinese sausages, the staff were happy to oblige, and it still tasted pretty alright. Sufficient mix of prawns, squids, scallops and mushrooms.

Wanton Soup with Noodles

HweeGuang didn't like this much, save for the wantons. He commented that the noodles were so much like instant noodles, and the soup quite tasteless.

Char-Roast Duck Noodle

Stella felt that Canton-i's specialty duck is not too bad, better than expected, but overall as a dish it was just average.

Guangdong Style Stir-Fried Noodles

Not sure about the exact name of this dish, but it's close. Leona could only manage an "it's okay" when I asked her about it.

Fried Radish Cake with XO Sauce

This probably came close to saving the dinner for the three. Well-fried and flavourful enough.

It was pretty crowded and understandably so it would be difficult trying to get the attention of the busy staff. To be fair, when we did get their attention, they were very helpful and thorough with our orders, even giving suggestions on alternative choices. I appreciate that.

$10.80 for the seafood fried rice
$8.80 for the char-roast duck noodle
$7.80 for the fried radish cake with xo sauce
(Around the same price for the other two noodle dishes)

* Prices subject to the usual 7% GST and 10% service charge.

ION Orchard, #03-14.

Pictures taken with the Canon EOS 500D.

Bloggers Outing: Checkers Deli

Our food bloggers' outings have been gradually expanding in size, and if not for appointment and schedule clashes there would easily be twenty of us all gathered cosily in one place. I'm sure that time will come very soon, and it's definitely something to look forward to in the coming new year. As they always say, the more is always the merrier :)

It's usually easier planning for teatime-dessert outings because all we need is some place peaceful that gives us free reign over our cameras, and where we could have as many sweet delights as we can ask for. This time round, after our cameras were being denied action by Cova Pasticceria at Orchard Paragon, we bought our little tickets to sugary heaven instead from Checkers Deli at Hilton Hotel, and I must say that the experience was quite lovely indeed. It's what some may call "a blessing in disguise". First up of course, the food bloggers' "guest list" for the day:

Justin from J2K3Blogs
Kaelyn from My Food Sirens
Elaine from Divine Essentials
Daniel from Memoirs of Food
Gavin from Every Meal an Adventure
Harris from The Simplest Aphrodisiac
Phoebe and Chloe from The Food Chapter

One of the most fantastic things about being a food blogger is about finding like-minded people out there who not only share your almost insatiable love for food but also who have a passion to share the joy of such gastronomic wonders. Dedication then comes naturally, as we spend hours every week updating our blogs, posting on food forums (some even do both!), tagging on one another's blogs with the latest recommendations or with just a cheerful word or two of encouragement. And to make things even better, and what keeps us going day in day out, is our amazing readers out there. These blogs are not only about us, it's also about how much we want to reach out to new friends out there who have kept us on their bookmarks and who would read our humble blogs from time to time. To these awesome people, thank you!

As such, one of my New Year Resolutions is already in place: I would really love to meet some of my frequent readers and go out for meals together! I've been very encouraged by the emails, tags and Facebook messages thus far, and it's certainly spurring me on to organise something within the first quarter of 2010 (make sure you all turn up ah, else I have to start dragging people in as fillers haha!). So stay tuned to this blog as I try to come up with plans for an official blog outing! Till then, do keep reading and do keep eating :)

The Damsels

Ahh, on to the sweet treats, shall we? I hear from Phoebe that Checkers is especially known for its cheesecakes, and amongst the three that we tried, the Blueberry Cheese Cake came up tops, and by a big margin too. The thick cheesecake is nicely paired with the soft, almost jelly-like blueberry top and in itself had a balanced, sweet flavour to it. The Marble Cheese Cake and Walnut Cheese Cake meanwhile didn't impress me much, in fact they were plain (and after the second tiny forkful, boring) and couldn't match up to many of the other cakes on the table. Many others however have continued to rave about these two cheese cakes online, and the general consensus remains that Checkers sells one of the top quality cheese cakes around!

The Beautiful

The pretty lady of the day, the Mixed Berries Tart (almost typically?) charms more on its looks than on its content and taste. The mixture of rum and almond cream was fine, but somehow the whole tart just didn't come together for a full, wholesome flavour. Still, pretty to look at.

The Bodyguards

Surrounding the lady were her two formidable-looking bodyguards, looking all round and tough indeed. I liked the zesty Lemon Tart a lot, and I dare say it's one of my top two favourites of the afternoon. The hard crust is contrasted to the smooth lemon custard interior, but what's worth more mention is how the lemon flavour was of a perfect measure that makes it neither too over-powering nor too fleeting. The Vanilla Chocolate Cake on the other hand looked like a safe bet, but it's description of crispy praline, vanilla cream, chocolate sponge and mousse raised our expectations a bit too much - save for the praline, it seemed quite ordinary to me.

The Specialists

I have to admit that both the Coffee Moka Finger and the Carrot Walnut Cake did not leave a deep impression in me (so much so that a week on I don't quite remember how they actually taste like!) but I do know that the latter had mixed reviews around the table and a couple commented that it was a bit too dry for their liking. This deserves another check. The coffee finger was comparatively slightly better, but only if you like your cakes with a hint of coffee.

The Knight

I'm wondering why, at half past two in the morning, that I'm calling this "the knight", and I remember now that it's only because this cake reminds us all so much of one of the best-selling cakes from a common bakery - Coco Exotic from Four Leaves Bakery - and that this particular one from Checkers is like a refined and "upgraded" version to it, just like how a celebrated soldier is promoted to the ranks of a knight. Needless to say, and before I get carried away (haha!), the Hazelnut Royaltine is certainly one of the best versions there is to the hazelnut praline cake as it has a good balance of soft chocolate cake and crispy hazelnut praline and biscuit.

The Prince

The Prince, naturally, commands all, and for that I'm conferring such a honorary status to the Snicker's Cake, which boasts Jivara milk chocolate, peanut caramel, biscuit Joconde (almond-based sponge), peanut crisps and dark chocolate glaze. The best slice of cake for the day for me, prized alongside it's more fruity and equally tantalising counterpart in the lemon tart. The ingredients speak for themselves really, dark chocolate with peanut caramel and crisps is enough to make any (non-health conscious) boy happy :)

Very good, polite and friendly. Constantly refills our glasses with water.

Dine-In Price (Takeaway Price) Nett:
$11.20 ($7.80) for the blueberry cheese cake
$11.20 ($7.80) for the marble cheese cake
$11.20 ($7.80) for the walnut cheese cake
$8.85 ($6.95) for the mixed berries tart
$8.85 ($6.95) for the lemon tart
$6.95 ($6.95) for the vanilla chocolate cake
$6.95 ($6.95) for the coffee moka finger
$8.85 ($6.95) for the carrot walnut cake
$8.85 ($6.95) for the hazelnut royaltine
$8.85 ($6.95) for the snicker's cake

Hilton Hotel, Orchard Road.
Dine in at Checkers Brasserie within Hilton Hotel.

Pictures taken with the Canon EOS 500D.

Bloggers Outing: Gordon Grill

24 December 2009

As Christmas arrives it also means that the year is drawing to a close. For many of us, it's a time of good cheer and festivities as we usher in the dawn of a new year. It's also the time we start reflecting (if we haven't done so earlier) on what has happened in the course of the past twelve months and what has particularly been special. For food blogs like this one you're reading here, authors begin to ponder as well on what has been the best meal that they have had in the year. Mine took quite a while, but it has finally arrived.

I've been to heaven and back for so many times thanks to Gordon Grill, and for me it definitely made the grade for THE BEST MEAL of 2009. It passed the test with flying colours in food quality and taste, food presentation, price and service, and all in the most stringent of criteria - clearly I wanted to make sure that I was not carried away by the sheer novelty of fine dining.

Gordon Grill was also the choice of location for the Food Bloggers' Lunch, which was attended by Elaine from Divine Essentials as well as Phoebe and Chloe from The Food Chapter. Another group meanwhile had headed for La Strada at Shaw Centre, and it was arranged that we would meet for teatime desserts thereafter to share even more food lovin'. Look out for that post this weekend, the desserts were really lovely too! :)

Complimentary Bread Basket: 4.25/5

The three-course set lunch that the four of us had was part of the UOB Chef's Creation Series by Executive Chef Gan Swee Lai. The complimentary bread basket that arrived at the start did more than whet our appetite, it got us so full of anticipation of what was to come! Other than the brown sourdough bread that was quite plain and dry, the olive loaf and onion rolls meanwhile were fantastic. I've rarely raved about free bread (the only exception, and close rival, would be the ones served at Barnacles Restaurant with an accompanying chilli crab dip) but these ones were so fresh, fragrant and flavourful that it's difficult not to love them.

The sisters especially gave the thumbs up for the onion rolls and even asked for a refill on those. Just add a simple dash of butter and you've got something so simple yet delicious on your hands. I especially like the way that it was toasted that it was so crisp on the outside yet still so soft on the inside.

Hokkaido Scallops: 4/5

My choice of appetiser was the Hokkaido scallops with apple puree and black truffle vinaigrette. Elaine and Phoebe had theirs with the addition of pork belly too. The scallops were fresh and gently cooked for that golden brown hue. Mushrooms and truffles were nice too.

Salmon Confit

Chloe's salmon confit appetiser was served alongside cold Japanese pasta, seaweed and caviar, with a light addition of white truffle oil. Phoebe who took a forkful of her sister's salmon commented that it had a very "Asian"-flavour to it, and I myself could discern the smell of vinegar and caviar that I would think is very much an acquired taste. Chloe said the exact same thing on "acquired taste".

Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Braised Cheek: 5/5

Yes, the perfect score, the first ever that this blog has seen thus far. I love my beef, but this one was quite something out of this world and in a different league altogether. The tenderloin brought a whole new meaning to "tender", even when it was close to medium-rare, while the braised cheek literally melts in your mouth. A well-grilled steak in a sizeable portion, what's there not to like? The whipped potatoes on the underside meanwhile were so smooth and simply a joy to wipe off your fork. Add some Bordelaise brown sauce and you've got a winner of a main course. Perfect.

Roasted Turkey Supreme

Both Elaine and Chloe chose the roasted turkey, which came in different cuts as well, and accompanied by chestnut ballotine, winter vegetables and winter sauce. I believe the two girls found it just alright, good, but not necessarily something to scream and rave that much about.

Chestnut Crème Brûlée: 4.75/5

Ah, desserts. It wrapped up the superb meal amazingly well. The crème brûlée is certainly one of the best that I've ever tried, with the deliciously burnt and crisp caramel atop smooth and sweet vanilla-chestnut custard. What made this dessert even more impressive was the small pairing of whisky ice-cream, which was just heavenly - the liquer was not too overpowering that it would mask the vanilla-bean based ice-cream, and the addition of a small cut strawberry for good measure was most welcomed. I wish I could have more of this please!

Rhubarb Trifle: 4.25/5

Two of the ladies chose the rhubarb trifle, and just a look at it would make you go, "This is a ladies' dessert". Pretty indeed, and Elaine especially liked this. While the vanilla sugar donut was more or less typical, the trifle on the other hand was what really won the hearts of its owners. There's at least three different layers of custard, fruits and even jelly, and on Elaine's urging I took a spoonful of all three layers at once - oh, yummylicious. Smooth and delightful.

Overall Verdict
Excellent of course! I liked the way the pictures turned out as well, and you might also like to know that these pictures were unedited (as all my pictures are) save for brightness adjustments.

Impeccable. They even brought a small chair out for me to put my DSLR camera bag on, and they definitely won me over with such a thoughtful gesture for my new baby.

UOB Cardmembers promotion: $68++ for two.

Gordon Grill, Goodwood Park Hotel.

Pictures taken with the Canon EOS 500D.

Earle Swensen's

22 December 2009

Earle Swensen's is the "upmarket" offshoot of the popular chain of Swensen's Restaurants and features an extended menu alongside an all-you-can-eat salad bar (terms and conditions apply). I have to admit I didn't come with much expectations especially after reading so many ambivalent reviews online, and in fact I thought it would only be more of an "inflated" (in terms of price) menu more than anything else. The salad bar seemed alright but I'm not a salad person at all and so stuck to just the cold oriental pasta, which was quite nice actually. Meanwhile, the view from Earle Swensen's at Vivocity would be pretty good once the Sentosa Integrated Resort is up, though for now it's still more or less construction sites or trees steeped in darkness.

Earle's Poultry Combo: 3.5/5

I was late for dinner and so couldn't take pictures of the twelve plus dishes on the table, though I heard that the food here is generally better than the ones served at the typical Swensen's restaurants, save for the fish and chips which my dad had. My poultry combo was a charboiled platter of chicken snail sausage, smoked duck, chunky chicken thigh strips and chicken breast, topped with herb onion gravy. I thought the sausage and chicken breast were delicious, the chicken breast especially was tender and juicy. The smoked duck on the other hand was almost tasteless while the chicken thigh was too tough and dry.

Tenderloin Steak: 3.75/5

Surprisingly, this was quite a good steak, though it may have been better if it was done medium instead of well-done. I expected the steak to be the run-of-the-mill type of uninspiring beef, but this one was actually quite tender and tasty. In retrospect of course, it cannot hold a candle to the best steak that I've ever eaten and it was only just recently too! Stay tuned and read all about my Best Meal of 2009 on Christmas Eve :)

Very good and helpful. I must praise one of their trainee staff, Ms Normala, for her patience and politeness throughout our meal, well done indeed.

$26.90 for the poultry combo
$28.90 for the tenderloin steak

* Prices subject to the usual 7% GST and 10& service charge.

VivoCity, #02-117.

Additional Comment
First picture source here.

Pictures taken with the Canon Ixus 80 IS.

Sofra Turkish Cafe & Restaurant

21 December 2009

I actually visited Sofra twice in ten days, the first with my classmates from university and the second with my teacher and classmates from college. In both instances everyone was very satisfied with the food, a refreshing change no doubt, though we agreed that service could be a bit better at times. Nevertheless, still very positive experiences and definitely a place to recommend if you want something different.

Turkish Bread: 3.5/5

On its own, it's quite dry. Add some kebabs, grilled meatballs or flavoured dips and it will be much better.

Izgara Kofte: 4.5/5

This may look simple but it's really delicious. The grilled flat meatball (I chose mixed beef and lamb) was marinated and done very well that each forkful was a delight. In both of my visits everyone announced this as the best of the sliced meats, in part because the kebab doner meat was drier and much less flavourful. I did away with the salad side and I think they increased the rice portion by a little. The pilaf rice tasted good too.

Chef Plate: 4.25/5

For those who can't decide what to have, why not just have a bit of everything - in addition to a serving of Izgara Kofte, it also has the doner and shish kebabs. Served with some bread too. Both Jasmine and Kenniese agreed that some sauce or gravy would have been good to reduce the dryness of the kebab meats.

Jumbo Kebab Combo: 3.75/5

The "upsized" variation to the chef plate and "perfect for two", but it omits the taste-worthy Izgara Kofte. Certainly an increased portion of kebabs and bread, but now with eggplant kebabs as well.

Chicken Pide: 3.25/5

The Turkish variation to the typical pizza, the pide appeared to have more bread than cheese, and definitely more bread than ingredients. I like the even way that the bread was toasted, but yeaps, too much of the bread in the pizza.

Chicken Baked Rice

Kebabs not your thing? Try the chicken baked rice, though I don't think it's as tasty. Justina who had this liked the tomato gravy and commented that it tasted freshly made, and those around her who were finding their kebabs a bit too dry were using it as a dip.

Turkish Desserts

The Turkish Rice Pudding tasted much better than it looked, a mixture of what seems to be egg, milk and rice and served cold. This was the favourite of the three desserts pictured above, quite simply because it was unique and not too overwhelmingly sweet. The Turkish Chocolate Pudding with Marshmallow on the other hand was a little bit thicker and had the hint of good dark chocolate. It tastes better with each consecutive spoonful. Finally, the Baklava was being compared (rather simplistically and perhaps, unfairly) to the typical Chinese deep fried ham chim peng with a gula melaka (coconut sugar) flavouring. I would think the puddings faired much better surely.

Can be improved, not very consistent. Friendly but inattentive at times.

$2.70 for the turkish bread
$12.90 for the izgara kofte
$17.50 for the chef plate
$34.50 for the jumbo kebab combo
$10.50 for the chicken pide
$13.50 for the chicken baked rice
$3.90 for the turkish rice pudding
$4.70 for the chocolate rice pudding
$4.40 for the baklava (two pieces)

* Prices subject to the usual 7% GST and 10% service charge.

100 Beach Road #02-42/43/44
Shaw Tower
Shaw Leisure Gallery.

Pictures taken with the Canon Ixus 80 IS.

2009 ·*the simplest aphrodisiac by TNB | Official Singapore Food Blog.