Tuesday, 27 October 2015

AUT's BACA event: Four Elements

Laaadles and jellyspoons~ it's been a while. My computer broke down completely and so I'm posting from Songie's computer while taking a break from studying. It's currently exam time for us uni students(except Songie, he's already in the workforce oooooh~); but I suspect you know that already since most of our readers are uni students too, hm? In any case good luck!!

I was introduced to this event by AUT because my amaaaazing super duper close(are we besties level? Hard to tell. Probably not if I cant tell. Yeah) friend Tara was in charge of the desserts section; the air element. Well and her team of course :3 it sounded like fun and I'm always keen to eat her food so it was a no brainer. It was on the last day of uni too, so a little celebratory dinner was a nice treat. On a side note I've been dreadfully sick these few weeks so it wasn't great timing but I still went. You had to book and it was a pretty popular event so no way was I missing out, y'know?

As soon as you entered you were offered a complimentary sangria(or non-alcoholic beverage as in my case) and some chips and dip, and you get seated for a while before your table is ready. In our case, Songie and I sat for ages because our adult company was still looking for parking(an understandable problem on a Friday night).

The atmosphere was great; the different themes were really played into with the lighting, the table displays(especially in the waiting lobby where piko cafe usually is), the couches lumped together in a classy manner, the relaxing music.

The air display seemed kind of messy though in comparison to the other displays in the lobby, so that was kind of disappointing. On the other hand bonus points for the use of the dried ice!! It was really enjoyable to watch and play with the 'smoke' as it poured out. Its not that the air display wasn't nice but it just wasn't as tidy, I suppose? But its a pretty hard element to 'display', it's more of one that you feel. The little pot-plants for the earth display, the fish brought in specially for the water display, the little touches were cute.

Once the table is ready and your party is assembled, you are led through the kitchen to get a glimpse of the food preparation and then you enter the restaurant. There is another door available but there's something a little more fun about being able to see the world that is usually behind closed doors. There is constant rushing about as the students cant even spare you a glance, and there are calls of "Yes chef"(which made me think of Gordon Ramsey's show) and sounds of food preparation happening. Maybe it's also to remind you that it's not hardened professionals cooking for you, that there are hardworking students trying their best in the kitchen and a slight hint not to be harsh in your critique if you have any.

The restaurant itself, the lighting was a bit dim - perhaps for a romantic setting-, the tables weren't too close together either so it was rather cozy and easy for our own table to converse. The display was more muted in the restaurant though the lighting and obvious colour coding of elements was still present in the serviette colours. Pretty sure we got air since we had white. The way the serviettes were stuffed into the cloth napkins were a little on the rough side though. They also provided some entertainment in the form of monthly zodiac element classifications and characteristics (apparently I'm Earth element because I'm a Taurus) and a mini quiz.

Some extra information


The cocktail menu sounded superb. I so wanted to try the Mudslide. Songie ordered the Cloud9 cocktail, which was pink and had dried ice and lychee jelly and was accompanied by a few spritz of a perfume of some sort that smelled like jelly(and the waitress insisted it was edible); my friend Stephanie has enlightened me on the existence of "candy sprays", which sounds pretty good as my future perfume of choice hahaha.

The cheese souffle!! I cannot believe they ran out. It was only 8 o' clock, though granted the event started at 6. We were so keen for it though :( I did get the hot vegetable spring roll I ordered though so thats nice. It was really crunchy and pretty oily, and it seemed like one of my springrolls barely made it out of the deepfryer before it became burnt, but other than that it was really nice. It was also presented beautifully in a very simple but refreshing colour palette. Songie had a vegetable slider, this adorable little burger thing, it was also quite tasty and well put together.

It was aaaaaaall seafood. The doctor told me to avoid seafood and fried/grilled things but I guess today was a day for breaking rules. I ordered the salmon dish which featured reeally long slices of cured salmon, with 2 slices of toasted crispy bread with what appeared to be olive oil(why did they think cured salmon needed any more oil??) and some blobs of sauce on the side.

It might have had wasabi in it, since it was on the spicy side too. Stupidly, I did not use the provided knife and just thought I could bite through the salmon, and piled it onto the slice with generous helpings of the accompanying dressing(huge regrets later due to the spiciness), and I found out the hard way on my second bite that no, you could not tear through the salmon without a knife. At this point it was either choke, spit it out or have the whole piece of salmon in my mouth. I went with the third option because it seemed tidier. This of course, meant I had a huge mouthful of very oily cured salmon in my mouth with no space for other foods like the bread and spread, leading to a rather unpleasant tasting start to the meal. Along with my existing illness, I felt pretty queasy after that. I couldn't down any more seafood after that; even Songie's scallop dumpling I was sampling couldn't be finished and I shamefully hid it under my fork in a desperate attempt not to make the chef feel bad.
Scallop dumplings

One HUGE complaint I have with the menu is that everything on the fire menu was spicy. I mean I understand that its part of your 'fire' idea but you should understand that not everyone can eat spicy. Cant they take a cue from Thai restaurants and have a flaming grill dish or something that is on fire for a few seconds while being dished, or just go with the idea of 'grill'='fire'? Or maybe a cheese fondue with a little candle to keep the cheese heated for the 'fire'? Also its not like we can skip the fire portion because we pay for the whole meal and its unavoidable, also you didnt even make it so the spice could be separable from the food itself. That aside, the food was pretty good(once I could get past my numbed taste-buds).
Chicken and Chorizo
I sampled Songie's Chicken and Chorizo dish and I think it was hands down the best item on the menu(presumably because it wasn't drenched in spicy sauce), though the lamb was good too.

I myself ordered the grilled vegetables dish and between the spice and eggplant which I generally abhor, I can't say I really enjoyed my dish, plus my unsettled stomach due to the salmon. It might have been better if I wasn't sick though, who knows. The tofu was grilled as well but since it wasn't extremely marinated all I could taste was the grill taste?

Grilled vegetables
For the dessert, I probably could have enjoyed it more if I wasn't sick and if I got that creme brulee tart I was aiming for buuut, the pavlova I had was beautiful and delicious as well.

The kiwifruit sorbet was kind of like foam so it was fitting of the theme but since im not actually a fan of kiwifruit I found it a little lacking. The mini pavlova component, however, was perfect. The crust was a little crispy and not too thin, and the inside was a tad chewy and just the right amount of sweetness.

I also sampled the gluten free chocolate cake and while it wasnt the fluffy soft sponge cake I'd envisioned, and more a compact soft brownie sort of cake with a dark chocolate taste appealing to mature tastebuds, I did like it as well. Sadly I can only dream about the creme brulee tart and how the crispy sugary crust would contrast with the custard and the tart crust and flavours. On a side note, the edible jelly perfume once again made an appearance to enhance the dessert, so that was nice.

I'm not sure if its a coincidence or not but they filled up the dried ice display again while I was starting to take photos of the area and I think that was really sweet. It was pretty professional and high class-y when you went in; the waiter even pulled my chair out for me and seated me like a gentleman. 

Our waitress/waiter was really nice and nobody at all commented on my impressive collection of water glasses. I should probably explain that; I've been sick these few weeks so I could only drink warm water, but it felt fussy to ask for warm water at the entrance so I just asked for water and hoped it would warm up later. I took it to the table and was poured a second glass of yet again cold water. I finally had the guts to ask for warm water and recieved another glass, and later when my glass was almosg refilled with cold water I asked for warm and recieved my fourth glass. Luckily the next waitress asked for my glass to refill instead of getting me a new glass so I didn't recieve a fifth.

Slowly growing collection....
I was really upset about missing out on the double baked cheese souffle, as well as the creme brulee tart, but it helped we had a friendly face to tell us I suppose(I'm still really sad though). Our companions wanted to watch a movie and endeavoured to get the food to come faster and I'd say they came rather fast, though whether that was the normal time or not I couldn't be sure. In the end they decided not to go and ate more slowly, which is pleasant.

The presentation was really good in all cases, though my salmon dish was a bit on the careless side. Also the sauce and the sorbet for my pavlova dessert seemed to have melted into each other a little but I suppose that's to be expected in the waiting time.

It was $45 per person, which is pretty reasonable for a restaurant, though children usually are cheaper to feed. Assuming you're an adult eating it's fairly reasonable for a 3 course meal plus dessert.

Overall a very interesting experience and I do wish I had been able to try the dishes I missed but I'm glad the event was a success.

Thanks for reading~~

Just the One Lamb

Friday, 28 August 2015

SINGAPORE: Fika and 320 Below Nitro Cream Cafe


Jia here~ As with most of our posts this is one that is looooong overdue, and I thought I'd pick up the slack a little since the mid-semester break has started. This post is from way back in January-ish when we were in Singapore. 320 Below Nitro Cream Cafe is a icecream place that makes their icecream with liquid nitrogen. It is located in several locations(Geylang, Paya Lebar, and in Tampines) and claims to be the only Nitro Cream cafe in Singapore. The one we decided to go to was located all the way in Paya Lebar's OneKM mall and we wanted to go with our friends so it took a while to organise. Eventually we decided on a good time and met up at the Paya Lebar MRT(mass rapid transport) station, then walked to OneKM mall.

Our lovely companions Amanda and Louise
Of course, by the time we got there we were pretty hungry since it was lunchtime, and we walked around the mall trying to think of a good place to eat. Eventually, Fika Swedish Cafe and Bistro caught our eye and we went in.

Fika Swedish Cafe and Bistro

It was a bit odd, like a little piece of suburban neighborhood just plonked in the middle of the mall, complete with hanging pot plants, lampposts, a white picket fence, fake grass and other homely decor.

As I said, the decor was really suburban neighborhood, which was cute I reckon. This is probably rather novel because Singapore is a very urban city and majority of the housing is in flats and those with houses have a rather different sort of neighborhood; beautiful houses all crammed together with usually very little garden space if any, and high security imposing gates and such, nothing like the typical American Dream white picket fence house type. It was also very.. white, which made for good photos when the food came. 

 "Jia Wen, go behind that fence and look through it""Like some creepy stalker?""Yeah"

We didn't want to be too stuffed when it came to dessert time, so we only got 3 dishes between the 4 of us. This turned out to be quite enough, as we struggled to finish it all. 

The first dish was the Smoked Salmon Salad. I don't know why but this year I've really been getting into the whole smoked salmon and cream cheese and salad kind of thing, I just find it absolutely delicious. I wasn't too keen on the random hard rye crispbread as I was more focussed on the salmon. It was pleasantly tangy, with the mixture of feta cheese, cucumbers, lemon, cherry tomatos and mixed greens. I'm not too sure what dill mayo is but it tasted like normal mayonnaise to me. 

The second dish was the Meatball Melt, and oh my gosh  they were good. I'm writing this review like 8 months later and I still remember it. On the other hand I was really hungry at the time and let's be honest, any combination of meatball and cheese is a winner. And that is exactly what this was. The only gripe I'd have about this dish is that ciabatta bread at the bottom, it was a bit of a pain to cut up. I'll admit when the dish first came I looked at Songie and like "Really? this is what you ordered?" but I definitely enjoyed it.

The third dish was the Pasta Bake which was apparently a family recipe. This consisted of melted cheddar cheese, creamy sauce and pasta, minced beef and those little cherry tomatoes on top. It's a lot smaller than it looks in the picture but still pretty filling, and I liked it but probably not as much as the meatballs? The pasta was a bit too creamy and cheesy and I honestly had no stomach for it in the end.

It's pretty hard to dress up pasta, salad and meatballs so there's not much to judge here.. it didn't look awful, I can say that at least haha.

Service was fine, food was fairly prompt and the staff were friendly enough. We didn't have much interaction with them beyond ordering, really.

The salad was $19.90, the meatballs also $19.90, and the pasta bake was $17.50. It is quite pricey but that is generally the price range of Singapore cafes when you're out of the hawker centres. Average pricing, in general I guess.

Pricing aside, I found this place to be quite nice. Due to it's location and the abundance of cute cafes around Singapore, however, I probably would not find myself travelling out to eat there again.

OK back to the main point of our expedition, we located 320 Below near the entrance where we walked in, and quickly made our way down.

320 Below

I discovered this place because my friend raved about the coconut ice-cream and chocolate lava cake(shout out to Kerry!) It was really awesome because you got to watch the ice-cream being made right in front of you, and the cooling sensation of the nitrogen was a  nice contrast to the hot weather(albeit in the mall you don't feel the heat). 

There are tubs available for takeaway, which I will probably try to get next time, but this time I just had a scoop, being too full from the lunch. I tried the Earl Grey flavour, Songie tried theapple cinnamon icecream and the chocolate lava cake, and A and L got apple cinnamon and coconut.

They had their menu on these screens

 The Earl Grey one was nice, having the faint taste of the tea without being bitter. I actually really enjoyed the texture of the icecream, it was rather like frozen yoghurt but a little more brittle than that, if cream can be brittle... then it just melted away in your mouth with a refreshing feeling, perhaps similar to shaved ice? We all sampled each other's and I must say I wish I'd gotten the Thai coconut one too because that was really nice, capturing the essence of a sweet coconut without being overpowering.

Songie's Lava cake looked reeaaally good I have to say, and it had a rich, dark chocolate tinge to it, which was enhanced with the ice-cream. I liked the fact that the apple cinnamon had apple bits in it too, rather than just the flavouring.

Now I don't remember the price but I do know it was definitely under $10, which is pretty normal for icecream. Songie didn't find it too amazing but I would probably head back to 320 Below to try all the flavours and maybe take a tub or two home if it could last the train ride home in the blistering heat of Singapore. 

Cheers for reading this long post!!
Just the one Lamb