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Wondering What The Fuss Is About Cry Dec 15, 2015   
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Categories : Café

Opening its doors in November 2015, 20F Specialty Coffeehouse is one of the hottest new cafes of the moment for year-end 2015. The hype has been building for this place over the last few weeks, and photos of its food, specifically its signature dish of Duck Confit And Waffle / Duck And Waffle, keep popping up all over social media. Displacing a former Chinese medicinal hall / clinic which had occupied this spot for over 60 years, 20F Specialty Coffeehouse pays tribute to its address of 20 Foch Road in its quirky name.

Ambience at 20F Specialty Coffeehouse is modern industrial chic, in the vein of similar indie coffeehouses. Think warm lighting, rustic wooden furnishings, vintage floor tiling, metal grilles, and tight layout. Modern wall art paintings lend a splash of vibrant colour to the place, while a bright, airy backyard doubles as an event space. Pretty decent place, not too suitable for chilling / relaxing. Ambient noise can be quite loud, as the place is bustling and busy. The backyard is clean and naturally lit, very photo-worthy, but the kitchen is also located here, and the poor ventilation makes your clothing stink.
Wall Art

Wall Art

 
Service at 20F Specialty Coffeehouse is partial self-service. Ordering and payment is done over the counter, but staff will serve orders to your table. The mostly young staff are friendly and chirpy, able to engage diners in conversation, as well as make astute recommendations, answering questions on the food or menu. Order fulfillment can take a while during peak periods, of up to 20 minutes. Consistency and quality of execution in dishes / beverages seems to be an issue, no problem with the more experience staff, but it shows in the junior staff.

Food at 20F Specialty Coffeehouse is unique for their combination of savoury and sweet in several of their dishes and desserts. Primarily modern European (American, British, French), their unique approach means you either love or hate the food. Dishes here are rustic in presentation, with a focus on poultry (duck), bacon / pork, and waffles. Portions are big and rather filling for individuals, and could possibly be shared. Prices are at the higher end for a typical cafe, budget about SGD $38 per person for a meal with 1 main course, 1 beverage, and 1 shared dessert.
Nutella Layered Cake

Nutella Layered Cake

 
The 20F Christmas Rum & Raisin Iced Coffee (SGD $7) features rum & raisin ice cream blended in to the espresso... but I only faintly detect its lovely taste over the much stronger flavour of coffee. In all other respects, this was the most irritating and poorly thought out beverage ever. The tiny straw, and glass packed with crushed peanuts, dried cranberries, mint leaves, and marshmallows meant everything kept getting stuck, making it a struggle to drink. At the very least, they could have served this with either a bigger straw, a serving spoon, or a sieve. Tastes good, but a terrible execution makes this an irritating drink, gave up without finishing.
20F Christmas Rum & Raisin Iced Coffee

20F Christmas Rum & Raisin Iced Coffee

 
Full 20F Specialty Coffeehouse review here: http://ivanteh-runningman.blogspot.sg/2015/12/20f-specialty-coffeehouse.html

 
Table Wait Time: 20 minute(s)


Date of Visit: Dec 13, 2015 

Spending per head: Approximately $38(Dinner)

Other Ratings:
Taste
 2  |  
Environment
 3  |  
Service
 3  |  
Clean
 4  |  
Price
 2

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Categories : Italian | Ice Cream and Gelato | Pasta

Bottura in Suntec City was opened in May 2015, by ex-banker and 5th generation Italian restaurateur Luca Bottura, a native of the city of Bologna in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, and cousin to 3-Michelin star celebrity chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana. A multi-faceted concept store, Bottura is more than just a restaurant, also offering a cafe-lounge, a wine bar, a gelato bar, and a gourmet retail store stocked with imports from Italy! However, their main draw is still the Bottura restaurant, which offers decent, tasty Italian food in a casual setting, with affordable prices.

Ambience at Bottura is akin to a casual bistro, with simple, modern furniture in tones of metal, wood, and black, neatly laid out within a wide open, spacious area. Its location comes with a balcony which overlooks the main foyer, great for people watching. Suitable place for business meals, or simply chilling with friends. The gourmet retail store itself is rather small and non-descript, you wouldn't even know it's there unless attention was called to it. I like the attractive and bright display of the gelato bar, great eye-catcher!
Gelato Scoop Of Mr. Tobby & Malaga

Gelato Scoop Of Mr. Tobby & Malaga

 
Service at Bottura is their weakest point. While I understand it's meant to be casual, staff aren't observant, and it takes quite a while to attract their attention even during non-peak periods, as they tend to stand around and talk amongst themselves. At least guests are quickly ushered to seats, and orders taken quickly as well. I do commend staff for being efficient at clearing empty / dirty tables, possibly the best thing about the service here. Also inconsistently performed is requesting for feedback, sometimes staff do so, and other times they don't. Oddly, despite being a tableside service restaurant, payment is self-service.

Mistakes are made with requests, staff once asked if I wanted cheese or chili flakes, and even after I requested only chili flakes, the staff brought me pepper and cheese. On another occasion, I had to ask for my dessert twice, and waited over 20 minutes for it to be served. Finally, we once visited at 9:10pm (Bottura last order is at 9:30pm), but staff refused to seat us, saying they had already stopped service. Well, they're right...

Food at Bottura is the closest to authentic Italian you'll find at a really affordable price range... so wallet-friendly that even students can dine here! Portions are medium-sized to large, and usually very filling, making Bottura great value for money. On top of that, the taste of their Italian food is usually average / decent, to above average, though not the best I've had. The highlights are their homemade pastas, made fresh daily, cooked till al-dente, and gently covered in tasty sauces. Even their bread and gelato are made in-house, thumbs up for the level of effort! Overall, Bottura is worth visiting for their decent, affordable Italian food, provided you can stomach the inconsistent service.
Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta

 
The Tagliolini Zebrati Con Gamberetti E Zucchini (SGD $18), or Zebra Tagliolini Pasta With Shrimp And Zucchini, features a visually pleasing duo of tagliolini pasta; a bright egg tagliolini, and a dark squid ink tagliolini. Pleasing to the palate as well, with its combination of al-dente texture, earthy and eggy tastes, and light cream sauce. The fresh, crunchy, thinly sliced zucchini round out the plate, along with 4 fresh but small shrimp / prawns. Completely delicious, and worthy of being a bestseller here. Highly recommended!
Tagliolini Zebrati Con Gamberetti E Zucchini

Tagliolini Zebrati Con Gamberetti E Zucchini

 
Full Bottura review here: http://ivanteh-runningman.blogspot.sg/2015/11/bottura.html

 
Table Wait Time: 1 minute(s)


Date of Visit: Nov 27, 2015 

Other Ratings:
Taste
 3  |  
Environment
 4  |  
Service
 1  |  
Clean
 4  |  
Price
 2

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Pretty Milkshakes, Average Taste  Cry Nov 17, 2015   
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Categories : European | Bakery | Café | Kids-Friendly

The Benjamin Browns Bistro & Bakery / The Benjamins has been around for a few years now, having opened in Forum The Shopping Mall since 2013. But they've flown relatively under the rader, with mostly sub-par food... up until 2015, when they reinvented themselves. These days, they're known for their 'Over-The-Top' milkshakes, an eye-catching, towering dessert, of heart-stopping and photo-worthy proportions. Overall though, I think I'll visit for photo opportunities, or for being 'trendy', and not return again.
Benjamin Browns Bistro & Bakery Exterior

Benjamin Browns Bistro & Bakery Exterior

 
Ambience at Benjamin Browns Bistro & Bakery / The Benjamins is casual European, akin to small Italian bistros. Warm, decorative lighting hang over the small, cramped, floor space. Sturdy wooden and metal furniture, packed closely within the area, result in less privacy for conversations, and the ambient noise level can be quite loud when the place is packed. Queues can stretch up to 15 minutes or more during peak periods. Still, I find a sense of calmness in the midst of chaos, I especially like people-watching from the corner seats here... it's relaxing.
Benjamin Browns Bistro & Bakery Interior

Benjamin Browns Bistro & Bakery Interior

 
Service at Benjamin Browns Bistro & Bakery / The Benjamins can be brusque. The mostly young staff are usually busy, rushing around the small space. Still, they're friendly enough in greetings, though they might show signs of impatience if you take too long to order. At least they have basic product knowledge, which is good, and can provide brief descriptions of menu items. Order fulfillment usually takes about 10 minutes, decent. However, I'm disappointed in the construction consistency of their 'Over-The-Top' milkshakes, peak periods means a rushed job, which results in a milkshake that isn't built well. One of our milkshake orders actually fell over on its own within 3 minutes of being served. Terrible.

Food at Benjamin Browns Bistro & Bakery / The Benjamins is casual Italian. Taste is mostly decent, as is their portion size, which is slightly large for 1 person. But most people visit Benjamin Browns Bistro & Bakery / The Benjamins for their 'Over-The-Top' milkshakes. In my opinion, these dessert towers look incredibly beautiful and photo-worthy, but the taste isn't as outstanding, being average at best. Pretty to look at, but no real substance. Prices are reasonable for a cafe, budget about SGD $9 per person for a shared milkshake dessert.
Nutella Banana Milkshake

Nutella Banana Milkshake

 
Full Benjamin Browns Bistro & Bakery / The Benjamins review here: http://ivanteh-runningman.blogspot.sg/2015/11/benjamin-browns-bistro-bakery-benjamins.html

 
Table Wait Time: 5 minute(s)


Date of Visit: Nov 10, 2015 

Spending per head: Approximately $9(Other)

Other Ratings:
Taste
 2  |  
Environment
 4  |  
Service
 1  |  
Clean
 3  |  
Price
 2

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Categories : Thai | Steamboat/Hot Pot | BBQ | Buffet

Full Charcoal Thai review: http://ivanteh-runningman.blogspot.sg/2015/07/charcoal-thai.html

Charcoal Thai started out as a small, humble eatery in Kovan in 2014, with Thai Chef Sitthinon Charoenphirapamom (Pinon) at the helm. Originally offering a much more varied ala-carte menu, Charcoal Thai has since trimmed this down greatly, to focus on their core business of Thai Mookata / Thai style steamboat. That said, the increasing popularity and success of their brand has somewhat diluted the food quality, and I find it overall rather average.

Ambience at Charcoal Thai is their weakest point. The spacious but dimly lit interior is poorly ventilated, and the smell of grilling food hangs heavily in the air, and sticks stubbornly to your clothing. While the modern wooden furniture is large, with comfortable booths and chairs, the floor has a distinct oily feel when walking on it, which I feel could be unsafe and unclean. However, I appreciate the fact that they use actual charcoal for the mookata.

Service at Charcoal Thai is decent, if underwhelming for a restaurant. Depending on the staff serving your table, they could either be rather brusque and uncaring, or very polite and accomodating. This wildly inconsistent service is, in the long run, not a good thing. I also note that staff kept trying to upsell us on the buffet, but having eaten here, I find the ala-carte Mookata set to actually be sufficient portions for 2 - 3 people.

Food at Charcoal Thai is pure Thai cuisine, though the greatly reduced ala-carte menu means some tasty dishes are now no longer available. Their core business of Mookata is about decent, not memorable enough to make a return visit. Portions are suitably sized, and prices are comparable to other places, budget about SGD $24 per person for a meal here. Overall, Charcoal Thai has very little signature items to distinguish itself from competitors, and with the trimming down of the menu, makes it even less appealing. I'm not likely to return.

Their house Thai Sweet Chili Sauce actually isn't that great, which makes this a poor Mookata choice, as their competitors either have tastier sauces, or a wider variety of sauces. They only have this 1 sauce, which is more sweet than spicy.
Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

 
I loved the Crispy Mini Spring Roll (SGD $6.90), the crisp outer shell which cracks satisfiyingly, and the moist, savoury, fresh filling within. Comfort food, a great appetizer, though the plating isn't attractive.
Crispy Mini Spring Roll

Crispy Mini Spring Roll

 
We settled on the Mookata Set Meal (SGD $39.90), which comes with a pre-set selection of items for 2 - 3 people. These items cannot be swapped or exchanged with other items of equivalent value, unless the kitchen runs out of something. The charcoal within the Mookata Pot keeps burning for quite a long time, around 2 hours or so, more than enough time for even the buffet meal. The default Tom Yum Soup base / stock I felt was pretty good, with a nice sour, savoury flavour, though it's not as spicy as I expected.
Mookata Set Meal

Mookata Set Meal

 
 
Table Wait Time: 1 minute(s)


Date of Visit: Jul 19, 2015 

Spending per head: Approximately $24(Dinner)

Other Ratings:
Taste
 3  |  
Environment
 2  |  
Service
 2  |  
Clean
 1  |  
Price
 3

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Categories : Korean | Korean Fried Chicken

Full Chir Chir review here: http://ivanteh-runningman.blogspot.sg/2015/06/chir-chir-fusion-chicken-factory.html

Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory (pronounced Chee-Ru Chee-Ru), a popular Korean fried chicken franchise from South Korean with over 100 outlets, opened its doors in Singapore in February 2015. Specialising in 3 distinct styles of Korean fried chicken; crisp, spicy barbecue, and garlicky, Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory has quickly attracted long queues for its tasty, uniquely presented dishes.

Ambience at Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory is modern industrial, with touches of quirky / whimsical. The gray concrete walls are dotted with various objects, typcially with a farm or chicken theme, such as egg cartons or feeding trays. Furniture is clean and comfortable, and they'll able to shift it around to accomodate large groups. Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory has a buzzing, noisy atmosphere, they typically play background Korean music at loud volumes, which causes diners to speak much louder.
Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory Seating

Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory Seating

 
Service at Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory is decent. The long waiting / queue times is alleviated somewhat by the friendly staff handing out menus, and taking orders even before you're seated. However, food is prepared to order, with fresh produce, so order fulfillment can take 15 minutes or so. Do not visit Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory if you're very hungry, or in a rush, as total waiting time can stretch up to 1 hour. Staff are efficient, turning over empty / dirty tables quickly, and are knowledgable enough to make recommendations and provide general descriptions of each dish. Payment however, is self-service.

Food at Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory focuses on Korean fried chicken, or Chimaek. This means fried chicken prepared in a South Korea style, with crisp crackling skin, and chicken that has been marinated with spices. Generally, I find their fried chicken to be tasty, though somewhat lagging behind in texture, not the best around. Portions are large, designed for a minimum of 2 diners, and must be shared. Prices are comparable to other such Korea style restaurants, budget about SGD $30 per person. I personally feel it's not that great value for money, as you'll be able to get better food elsewhere.
Chir Cream Beer

Chir Cream Beer

 
I wasn't too happy with the Garlicky Tenders (SGD $26.90) because of its rather firm chicken meat, that bordered on being dry. And while the soy sauce lent good flavour, it also made the overall dish rather salty. But I did like the non-greasy meat, and crisp, flavourful skin, as well as the fragrant aroma of the crunchy garlic flakes and lemon juice. The boneless chicken tenders / chunks are served over sweet caramelised sweet potato cubes, and savoury sauteed Ddukbokki / Tteokbokki / Sweet & Spicy Rice Cakes. Overall tasty dish, but I won't order this again.
Garlicky Tenders

Garlicky Tenders

 
 
Table Wait Time: 60 minute(s)


Date of Visit: Jun 11, 2015 

Spending per head: Approximately $30(Dinner)

Other Ratings:
Taste
 3  |  
Environment
 2  |  
Service
 3  |  
Clean
 4  |  
Price
 2

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