KEK (Keng Eng Kee) @ 200 Pandan Gardens

Keng Eng Kee (KEK) is fast becoming a brand for tze char. Mention those 3 words and people will automatically associate it with authentic local delights served in the modest food centre at Bukit Merah. Fast forward to more than 30 years later, since its foray into our hawker culinary scene, the third generation of KEK has now introduced a modern dining experience as they cater to the younger crowd with their newest outlet at Pandan Gardens.

Serving up an assortment of traditional and mod “c” dishes on their menu, KEK offers novel creations such as Chilli Soft Shell Spaghetti and Crispy Fish Skin with Salted Egg, and classic mainstays of Coffee Pork Ribs and Salted Egg Crab which have been brought over from their flagship stall. Prices range from $6-$30 with no added service charge.

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I brought my family down on a Sunday and the place was filled- mostly with three generation families. We were lucky enough to get a table even though we did not make any reservation but the groups that came after us had a bit of a waiting time. Nonetheless, we placed our orders and the food arrived promptly and in decent portions.

Hokkaido Izakaya @ 95 Tanjong Pagar Road

Tanjong Pagar has always been a melting pot of culinary culture. From hipster cafes to ‘atas’ restaurants, Korean BBQ, Japanese ramen houses and booze-loaded bars, this food-centered district located within the Central Business District caters to almost every diner’s cravings. Joining the food scene this year is Hokkaido Izakaya, a casual Japanese gastropub which serves authentic Japanese dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients from 4 different cities in the prefecture of Hokkaido – Yakumo, Akkeshi, Furano and Kamishihoro.

Dinner was off to a promising start with 4 different appetizers to appease our rumbling bellies. The Scallop Liver with Sesame Oil $9 and the Cheese Marinated with Miso $7 were the first two appetizers that arrived shortly after our orders were taken.

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Despite its raw and not too aesthetically-pleasing appearance, the scallop liver exuded beautiful oceanic flavours which were concentrated in the tiny organ within the shellfish. A thin coat of sesame oil helped to boost the richness of the liver whilst mellowing out the fishy odor. The miso-marinated cream cheese too was an uncommon yet pleasant combination, although the tiny portion might not be worth its price tag.

Celebrate Hina Matsuri from 1-10 March 2016 @ Mikuni, Fairmont Hotel

Hina Matsuri (Doll’s Festival or Girls’ Day) is a day for families to pray for the happiness and healthy growth of their daughters. Celebrated every 3rd March in Japan, families would commemorate this day by setting up a display of dolls within the house, and present food offerings to these human look-alikes.

Running for the fourth year in a row, Chef Moon of Mikuni has once again applied his magic to conjure up an exclusive set menu to celebrate the special occasion of girls in the world. Having said that, the male counterparts are equally entitled to have a taste of Chef Moon’s culinary creations!

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Dinner started off with an inviting bowl of fresh green salad, topped with chunky pieces of sweet snow crab. Within the colourful assortment, you can find lettuce, tomatoes, beetroot, blueberries, tangerines, and meat from the 8 legged ocean beauty. Although it may seem a tad simple, this appetizer was extremely light and well-balanced which prepped us perfectly well for the luxurious feast coming up next.

EMPRESS by The Privé Group @ Asian Civilisations Museum

Stylish, contemporary yet traditional, EMPRESS is the newest flagship concept launched by The Privé Group. Located at the newly refurbished Asian Civilisation Museum, this modern Chinese restaurant is an amalgamation of just the right balance of fashionable elegance and traditional elements. High ceilings add a touch of glamour to the pillar-less indoor dining space which sits about 80 pax comfortably, while the alfresco terrace boasts of a stunning waterfront view of the Singapore River and Boat Quay- the ideal backdrop for a watering hole to kick back a couple of drinks post-office hours.

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And although it stays rooted to traditional Cantonese flavours, the food served at EMPRESS is anything but conservative as the aesthetics and presentation of the dishes inject some fun and vibrance to the usually strait-laced nature of oriental cuisine.

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Appetizer highlights include the Crispy Eggplant & Pork Floss $10/$15/$20 which was superbly fried to a crisp on the exterior yet still soft and mushy inside. Dressed almost completely with pork floss for added crunch and sweetness, these sticks of eggplant were delightfully addictive to munch on as we waited for our mains to arrive. The Crispy Aromatic Duck Salad $18 too was another refreshing change to the usual salad choices with that plum-citrus dressing and chunks of duck meat deep-fried till golden.

The Plain Jane Cafe @ Blk 221 Serangoon Ave 4

Located at the ground floor of a HDB block opposite Serangoon Stadium, is a humble quaint little cafe that specialises in Swiss Rolls, both for dining-in and takeaway. Opened in Dec last year, The Plain Jane is definitely not plain at all with its marbled and wooden accents, pretty accessories and delicate touches that makes this space cozy and ideal for an afternoon tea session with a good friend. Brownie points too for their special attention to the crockery and flowery plates that compliment the old-school feeling of this place.

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Serving up to 7-8 different flavours of Swiss Rolls such as Matcha, Yuzu and Raspberry each day, it is interesting to note the disproportionate ratio of cream to sponge here at The Plain Jane. That said, we were certainly not complaining because the essence of each flavour is most pronounced in the whipped cream that interlace each spiral. Between us two and after much debate, we eventually settled for the Earl Grey Tea, Thai Milk Tea and Nutella Swiss Rolls. Prices are $4.90-$5.90 per individual slice.