Back when it was called Azhang and located in Mohamed Sultan Road, I used to go to Patrick Zhang's restaurant to have his charcoal-grilled squid.
On a recent visit to his new restaurant, called Brinj and now in the Bukit Timah area, I find that the dish ($21) is still fantastic. The serving is good for two as a starter or for one as a substantial main course - the squid is 600g before cooking.
It is grilled so well that no part of it is rubbery or tough. The tentacles are a little charred at the tips - delicious. Ask for some fiery sambal belacan to smear over, well, everything.
The dish comes with fluffy rice pilaf and a salad, a complete meal.
Another good dish to order there is Baba Noodles (from $20), hearty Hokkien noodles with bacon, seafood and a thick, rich gravy. Glorious, just glorious.
Where: Brinj, 15 Cheong Chin Nam Road MRT: Bukit Batok Open: 6 - 11pm (Tue - Sun), closed on Mon. Lunch from Tue to Sun by reservation only Tel: 6469-9093
NAUGHTY BUT NICE
The food at Kilo, a restaurant in Kampong Bugis, is fresh and delicious but I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that it has no air-conditioning.
So when I find out that the restaurant has opened a branch at Orchard Central, an air-conditioned mall, I get there fast.
The eatery is part of a 3,700 sq ft space called Pact and shares space with a menswear shop and a Japanese hair salon. Here, in relatively cool air, I can enjoy simple, unfussy meals.
Raw's Seafood Ceviche ($17, pictured right), with raw salmon and tuna, cooked octopus, avocado chunks and spinach tossed in a chilli-lime dressing, is perfect on a hot day. The chilli isn't biting hot, it just wakes the tastebuds gently.
Spicy Tuna ($12), where cubes of raw tuna are marinated in lime and shoyu or Japanese soy sauce and sprinkled with chilli flakes and crushed rice, packs in a lot of flavour, with sprouts to add crunch.
Similarly, tempura crumbs added texture to soft, melting eggplant in Baby Eggplant Donburi ($12). I could do without the cheese but love the umami-rich sauce.
Finally, for something more substantial, try the Adobo Chicken Bowl ($15, pictured left). I want the chicken to be more tangy but the bright tasting corn, sugar snap peas, crunchy radish and wasabi sprouts add enough texture and flavour.
It looks healthy but tastes a little naughty, which is how I like my food.
Where: Kilo@Pact, Orchard Central, 02-16/17/18/19 MRT: Orchard Open: 11am - 3pm, 5.30 - 9.30pm (Tue - Sun), closed on Mon Tel: 6884-7560
PERFECT MIX IN BEEF NOODLES
There are beef noodles with gluggy gravy, so thick you can't get through to the noodles, usually clumped up underneath.
And then there is Zheng Yi Hainanese beef noodles, where the gravy is just thick enough to coat silky rice noodles. Chopsticks and spoon glide through the noodles smoothly.
When the slices of beef, slivers of tripe, roughly chopped peanuts, salted vegetables, noodles and gravy are all mixed up, that first taste is mind-blowing. The flavours are perfectly balanced.
In between spoonfuls, there is the cloudy beef broth to savour. It is soothing and comforting.
Hawker food does not get any better than this $5 bowl of noodles.
Where: Zheng Yi Hainanese Beef Noodles, Kin Seng Coffeeshop, 47 Tai Thong Crescent MRT: Potong Pasir Open: 11.30am - 6pm daily
A BOWL OF COMFORT
I could, my friend says, just have a big bowl of this. This would be the torched tuna and avocado rice bowl ($50, right) at Kaiho Sushi at Cuppage Plaza.
Chef Bernard Tang, 48, who used to work at the now-defunct Shiro and Yoshida, created the dish when he worked in Bermuda for about four years from 2001. Avocados were plentiful there and he got creative. At his restaurant in Singapore, it is available only on request, so ask for it when making reservations. Booking ahead is essential, since the tiny joint is almost always packed.
The rice, topped with chopped fatty tuna, is blanketed with a sauce made with avocado, Japanese mayonnaise, teriyaki sauce and fresh wasabi. It is torched so the sauce turn into something resembling a gratin.
It all seems too rich but the vinegar in the rice balances things out and every time I dig my chopsticks into the bowl, I get a different combination of flavours. Yes, I too, can have a big bowl of this, although at the price, it will have to be an occasional treat.
Where: Kaiho Sushi, Cuppage Plaza, 03-01/02 MRT: Somerset Open: Noon - 2.30pm, 6.30 - 11pm (Tue - Sun), closed on Mon Tel: 6738-1315
When the going gets tough, when deadlines loom, when newsmakers are being impossible, I often think of dropping everything and heading to Ruth's Chris Steak House.
I fantasise about ordering the Banana Cream Pie ($25) and eating the whole thing by myself. Alone. With the mobile phone switched off.
None of this is possible of course.
The pie, you see, is big enough for four. Break up the rather sturdy pie crust and a runny custard, flecked with vanilla seeds, oozes out. It is not too sweet and there is no floury taste, only gooey goodness. Ripe slices of banana are mixed in with the custard and lightly caramelised ones top the pie in a pretty pattern. Pick up the bits of torched sugar that dot the plate - they are crispy and delicious. In the real world, I would have to share. But a person can dream, can't she?
Where: Ruth's Chris Steak House, 4th floor, Marina Mandarin Singapore MRT: Esplanade Open: 11.30am - 3pm, 5.30 - 11pm daily Tel: 6336-9093
This story was first published on Oct 12,2012 on StraitsTimes.com. To read more: http://sph.straitstimes.com/archive/friday/premium/life/story/food-picks-20121012