Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Jason Atherton, ex-protégé of Gordon Ramsay at Maze Restaurant, subsequently broke out on his own with the widely acclaimed Pollen Street Social in London. Sadly, we never found the time to sample that, but fate threw us a second change with Pollen in Singapore.

Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Opened recently, Pollen was situated in the also very recently (23 July 2012) opened Gardens by the Bay, Singapore’s attempt to create something akin to Hyde Park or Central Park, and has already cost an estimated $1 billion. I’m not going to go into details about the Gardens, but briefly speaking there are two temperature controlled conservatories: Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. Within the Flower Dome conservatory sits Pollen restaurant.

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Normally, visiting the Flower Dome requires a ticket, $12 for locals; non-locals have to pay $28 to visit both conservatories. However, since Pollen restaurant is sited within the conservatory and we already had a reservation, we were waived the entrance fee and allowed to traipse about the Flower Dome for free. Getting to the Flower Dome may be a bit of a trek under the hot sun, so a rather convenient buggy was arranged for customers. The pick-up point can be a bit tricky to find, but the information counter is nearby and easily pointed us to it.

Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

As our table wasn’t quite ready when we arrived (earlier than the reserved time), we decided to tour the Flower Dome first. It was quite interesting, something like an eco-park with variety of fauna (mostly flowers, strangely enough) from the 5 Mediterranean regions of the world.

Flower dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

flower dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

The Flower Dome was spread over two floors, and quite intelligently, so was Pollen. The main restaurant was on the ground floor, with a little bar on the upper level. The interior of Pollen’s main dining room was truthfully, absolutely beautiful with a rock garden right by the main entrance and stretching all the way alongside the glass windows.

Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

To start us off with, some sourdough bread and French baguette was offered. The latter was a tad cold and slightly tough, while the former was much nicer. The butter was very rich, but smooth and still not too heavy. To go with the bread and butter was some olives and a rather strange concoction of mashed potato and pureed cod. It was described to us as being rather reminiscent of fishballs to the local palate, but I felt the fish/cod flavour was lost and it just tasted of potato mainly.

Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Scallop carpaccio, cucumber, apple, horseradish snow”. I felt this was perhaps the most interesting out of all the dishes we had. The scallop was marinated with a light herb dressing which augmented without overpowering the naturally sweet scallops. The horseradish ‘snow’ was delightfully light, with a hint of fresh spiciness. Giving a fresh natural aura to the plate as well was the lightly pickled cucumbers, and apples and beetroot slices.

scallops-Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Salad of buttered lobster, pasta, seaweed, maple dressing”. This was relatively more straightforward, with the sweet and succulent lobster meat scattered about the al dente spaghetti.

Lobster, Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Roasted pork belly, broad beans, slow-cooked squid, chorizo”. The pork belly felt more braised than roasted to me, juicy and tender. The crispy crackling on top was very good though, simple and light without being cloying. The broad beans and squid mixture was reasonably tasty without being particularly interesting.

Pork-Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Marinated lamb cutlets, artichokes, asparagus, prickly ash”. The PigPig was hankering for some lamb, and was salivating when this plate showed up. The lamb cutlets were beautifully cooked, and had just enough lamb aroma without being too ‘aromatic’ (or some may say, smelly). The artichokes provided a sharp sour contrast to the slightly gamey lamb. Interestingly, the thinly shredded maroon slices by the side was dried chillies, which gave the dish a slight Asian twist.

Lamb-Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

PB&J – Peanut butter and cherry yuzu sorbet”. The ‘peanut butter’ came in the form of the white mousse-like stick, slightly muted in peanut flavour. The ‘jam’ was the cherry yuzu sorbet, which was a bit on the tart side from the yuzu. Doing it in a sorbet form did make it slightly lighter and less creamy, but I would have preferred the richness of a more standard ice-cream format. It was admittedly very impressive plate preparation though.

Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

PB and J Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Crema de chocolate, banana ice cream, frozen caramel water”. A little bit of dry ice from the caramel provided some mild theatrics during the serving. The chocolate came mainly in the form of very dark cookie-like crumbs, which provided a bitter contrast to the banana ice cream and caramel. I found the chocolate a bit too dark, although the PigPig found the overall combination very palatable.

Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Service throughout was very smooth, apart from the one time we wanted for more bread and had to (*gasp*) ask twice before we got served.

Overall, the food was technically pretty well done and definitely quite reminiscent of some of the one-starred London restaurants. The more adventurous dishes like the scallop carpaccio, PB&J and chocolate and banana desserts worked quite well for me, while the pork and lamb mains were pretty good, but quite straightforward really.

Best bit: The Flower Dome conservatory. It’ll be interesting to see whether the complex will last the next 2-5 years and become a good Singapore attraction.
Worst bit: the ‘fishball’ paste was probably the worst bit, and it was hardly the most important aspect.

Flower Dome, Gardens By The Bay
18 Marina Gardens Drive #01-09
Singapore 018953
Tel: +65 6604 9988

[Guest post] Rise of the machines: my top kitchen gadgets

Saturday, 28 July 2012

There is one area of gadgetry that often gets overlooked by the camera and hi-fi obsessed: the kitchen gadget. Unless there’s a touch screen involved, these devilish devices don’t get the attention they deserve, despite being genuinely innovative. Perhaps I’m biased because I love food, so it’s fortunate that there are more kitchen gadgets available to the home cook than ever before.

To help me navigate the array of gastronomic gizmos, I asked culinary expert Richard Paikin, currently team chef for the rising stars of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club, for tips on how to get the best out of them.

Coffee machine

It’s a no-brainer that a coffee machine would come top of any kitchen gadget list. The mere aroma of fresh coffee turns my kitchen into a worldly and welcoming environment. It also turns out that a good espresso machine could actually make you a better chef! “Coffee is very handy in a kitchen environment and useful for heightening your senses and training your palate,” says Paikin.

A bean-to-cup machine such as the Saeco Xelsis by Phillips takes whole coffee beans, grinds them, and makes coffee to your preference. It means you can choose any coffee, without sacrificing control, convenience and craft.

However for me the Nespresso range is incredibly convenient. Connoisseurs may cringe, but the undoubtedly delicious coffee without the hassle is a step forward for a drink that hadn’t changed in years. You’ll never go back to freeze dried, you won’t block your sink with those pesky granules – it’s just great coffee without the hassle. The choices of coffee are excellent, but if I want to go further afield then I can be even more picky about going to a café, so going out is still a treat!


Ice-cream maker

This is the quickest way to become the most popular kid on your street! “This is one to buy if you have people over all the time – and will test your imagination because you will want to make different flavours,” says Paikin.

However, be warned that the phrase, “Sorry, there isn’t enough ice-cream,” will not make you popular at all: “Size is important, as is speed. There’s nothing worse than an ice cream maker that’s too small,” warns Paikin.

I tried a range of different and unusual flavours, from ginger or mint-choc chip with chunks of Green & Black’s, to raspberry and even rosemary sorbet. Some machines, such as the Magimix Gelato Chef 2200, will mix and freeze your creation in twenty minutes. Combine with a cup of the finest espresso from your coffee machine to create a creamy Italian affogato.

Outdoor smoker

Strictly speaking, this one is for outside the kitchen, as it should be used outdoors. But it’s so versatile and luxurious that no list of kitchen gadgets is complete without it.

The Original Bradley Smoker, for instance, is capable of hot and cold smoking, and even drying fruit. “You can use it for fish, cheese, meats - anything! Try smoking garlic, for instance,” explains Paikin.

Buying your own salmon to smoke turns out an absolute treat – and further involves you in the process of making your favourite foods and knowing where they come from, just like many of the gadgets on this list.

Smoking pellets are fed into the machine one at a time and after 20 minutes are extinguished in water, which helps to ensure a constant temperature. This makes for a nice clean smoke and a smooth taste and allows you to leave the appliance to smoke your food safely outdoors for around eight hours.


With summer finally here, why not invest in a smoothie-maker? I’m also a fan of granola in my smoothies, which combined with yoghurt, can make for a delicious and filling breakfast. Our expert, however, goes for the hand-blender:

“Hand blenders go a lot further than smoothie-makers because they do the same thing.
Purees, sauces, salsas, soups – you can use a hand blender for anything!” says Paikin.

If you’re whisking your way to becoming a better chef, then a hand-blender could be for you. But if you’re looking for convenience, have a look at the Dualit Blender, with a 1,000W motor that will do a cool job with your cocktails.

Vacuum sealer

Do you often forget to defrost your dinner? Is the microwave half-cooking your food and ruining all the effort you put into your pasta sauce? A vacuum sealer is perfect for preserving food to keep on-the-go, or even to create handy boil-in-the-bag portions for later.

“This is great if you’re feeling lazy. Say you’ve frozen a food portion of Bolognese – you can boil it in the bag,” explains Paikin. This quick way of cooking also saves on washing up – but be warned, vacuum sealing foods can be strangely addictive.

Some of these gadgets might seem expensive but could save you money in the long run, especially if you are enjoying eating in instead of going out. One way to help you spread the initial cost could be by credit card, especially if you've got a card that offers a 0% period on purchases. It's important to bear in mind though that if you don’t clear the balance within the introductory period, you will be charged interest.

This is a sponsored post by Guest Blogger Quentin Baker on behalf of Sainsbury’s Bank.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse

Sunday, 22 July 2012


Named after a district in Sydney, originated in Hong Kong (with 3 restaurants), now brought over to Raffles City mall in Singapore. The PigPig’s colleague’s friend was the executive chef in the newly opened restaurant here and since we’re always on the lookout for good steak, we duly went to sample their wares. And just to be clear, said executive chef had no idea who we were; for all intents and purposes we were anonymous while dining.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse beef

One of the most striking things about the restaurant is the cold room right by the entrance, with their cuts of meats arranged neatly. The next most eye-catching feature is the little cabinets with bottles of wine. At first I assumed the nameplates were of the vineyards the bottles were from, only to realise later that they represent certain individuals’ private bottles (I didn’t recognise any names, but I’m not privy to the high-flying circuit either).

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse wine

The dining area is large, seating 140 covers, and that doesn’t include the bar or lounge areas. Décor was rather odd, with a very significant preponderance for firewood stocking the sides. The PigPig felt it cosy, but I feel a little bit more variation is in order. The leather armchairs were super comfy, and there was ample elbow room.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse

Focaccia, topped with caramelised onions, was delightfully bouncy but lacked salt and oil, making this amongst the healthier focaccia I’ve sampled. The butter provided was very buttery and smooth, too much so for me in fact although I noticed some of my dining companions (party of 5 to be exact) loved it.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse bread

For the starters, we just decided to share a plate of foie gras, since we were mainly interested in the steaks anyway. The foie itself was not bad, not overcooked, while the toasted brioche is also reasonably faultless. However, the apple compote was a bit too tart, especially since my tastebuds are used to eating foie with a sweet compote/jam/preserve/glaze. The assortment of seasonings on the side was interesting, although I never found out what they were exactly. It should be just 3 kinds of salt and back pepper.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse foie gras

Moving onto the steaks, the majority of them are Australian in origin, with a couple of USDA Prime selections as well. However, for the more discerning beef aficionado, the only wagyu choice is the tomahawk. That doesn’t really bother me, since we were planning to share one anyway, but the smallest piece they had that night was 2.4 kg, which is simply not feasible for a party of 5 comprising 3 girls; even after the bone was removed that’ll be approximately 2 kg of meat or 400 g per person.

So in the end we opted for a 1.3 kg 70-day grain-fed Black Angus tomahawk steak and a Wooloomooloo steak. The tomahawk is essentially the rib-eye cut with the adjacent rib not trimmed off. Some people say leaving the bone on will make the meat taste better, but definitely it looks impressive. We were advised that off the bone, the meat will amount to approximately 1.0 kg.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse tomahawk

Both steaks were cooked in a Southbend broiler imported from the USA, gas-fuelled I believe. While the steaks still had the pretty cross-shaped pattern from the grill, it still lacks the smoky aroma that only a charcoal grill can give. Anyway regarding the tomahawk, it was not bad, but after being spoilt by wagyu beef, this simply didn’t have enough marbling. Also, they served the whole tomahawk as is on the table, and I had to request for them to divide the huge slab up for us, which they happily obliged. However, they divided it into cubes, rather than the strips I am more accustomed to. Also, the more fibrous portions were all put onto one side.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse tomahawk

The Wooloomooloo steak on the other hand, was a 150-day grain-fed rib-eye, about 300 g or so, marinated in Cajun spices. This was far better, being more marbled, but also more tender and the Cajun marinade was interesting. It was also definitely flavourful enough to be eaten without the steak sauces, although a dash of mustard never hurts.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse

Accompanying the steaks were four different sauces, au jus (a reduction of the beef juices), mushroom, red wine Madeira and black pepper. All were really tasty, by far the favourite was the pepper sauce while some found the mushroom sauce tasted a bit artificial.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse sauces

We also had a few sides to share: hash brown, French fries, creamed spinach and sautéed spinach. They were in general not bad although the creamed spinach was far too creamy for my tastes and lacked seasoning.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse sides

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse sides

For desserts, we shared 3 plates between the 5 of us. The soufflé came with a passion fruit & Grand Marnier sauce, which was a tad too tart alone but went really well with the sweet and light soufflé.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse souffle

The bread and butter pudding was rather strange in appearance, and felt too dense and thick. Lastly, the lemon and lime pie was not a favourite, with the flavours of the lemon and lime respectively overshadowed by the cream.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse desserts

Altogether, the total bill was about $500, including a $115 or so bottle of Coonawarra red wine which scored 90 points on the Robert Parker scale (so thankful their winelist includes the score points, makes choosing a bottle easier). Service throughout was reasonably prompt and attentive.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse wine

So, how does the steaks here compare to others? Well, unfortunately, as the other big boy steakhouses we’ve tried so far (Dish, Prime, Bedrock) all served wagyu, this isn’t really comparable. It’s a bit like having a speedrace between a bicycle and a motorcycle; they both have two wheels and a handlebar, but perform completely differently. Judging on the cooking then, it was pretty good: the steaks were perfectly cooked and the accompanying sauces were mostly also very tasty. For the more discerning palate however, the steaks were simply not marbled enough. Would definitely want to go back to try the Wagyu tomahawk.

For the best steak so far: Hawksmoor, London.

Best bit: the wooloomooloo steak was surprisingly good.
Worst bit: lean beef is admittedly healthy, but one does not go to a steakhouse for healthy fare.

Wooloomooloo Steakhouse
2 Stamford Road
Level 3 Swissotel The Stamford
Singapore 178882
Tel: +65 6338 0261

Boat Noodles at Victory Monument, Bangkok

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

One of the things that we really really really wanted to try in our maiden trip to Bangkok was boat noodles, so here’s a few basic background facts:

  • Called boat noodles, because they used to be served from the boats plying the rivers/canals of Bangkok
  • Also known as kuay tiew rua
  • Still served from boats in places such as the floating market, but most of them have moved to land and have ‘proper’ restaurants to sell their noodles
  • Usually thickened with blood (if this freaks you out, don’t think about it, its scarcely noticeable to taste)

Apparently the place to go for these babies is near Victory Monument BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System) station.

Victory monument, Bangkok

Once leaving the exit tills, basically just follow the crowd and keep walking on the elevated platforms above street level towards the monument. After a brief 5-10 minute walk (depends on how hungry you are) and past the monument, you’ll see a bunch of stalls beside a river to the right. Take the stairs down and start looking for food.

Boat noodles, Victory monument, Bangkok

Now a word of warning: these restaurants are situated beside a river (due to their heritage of serving the noodles from boats etc) and the river itself is filthy. There is loads of litter on the river. It smells terrible. We eat street food pretty regularly in Malaysia, but this is on a whole different scale. But we went with our instinct and tried it anyway. Plus my friend had Imodium on hand (which went unused, yay!).

Boat noodles, Victory monument, Bangkok

The PigPig didn’t really find out which was the ‘best’ restaurant to go to for the boat noodles, so we kinda wandered around rather aimlessly and I stumbled onto a queue. Something I learnt while working in Singapore: if there’s a queue, just join it. So that’s how the 4 of us found ourselves in a boat noodle restaurant that didn’t speak English.

Boat noodles, Victory monument, Bangkok

Here's a menu for your reference. We just pointed to the menu and told them we wanted one of each.

Boat noodles menu, Victory monument, Bangkok

Boat noodles, victory monument, bangkok

Eventually we worked out that they had 4 different types of soups, so we just tried one each. The bowls arrived, and the PigPig remembered reading that people can eat 5+ bowls each, because these bowls are tiny. Each bowl probably carried about 3 spoons of noodles. But it’s all good, because they’re only 10 Baht each (about RM1 or SGD$0.40), so order away.

Pork Boat noodles, Victory monument, Bangkok
The pork version

After a little while, we learnt that the flavours are pork, beef, tom yum and ####. We quickly developed our own personal preferences. For example, I preferred the slightly thicker strong beefy noodles, which is slightly more complex. My friend originally liked the pork, but later found he also preferred the more complex beef.

Beef Boat noodles, Victory monument, Bangkok
The beef version

The tom yum meanwhile was actually quite mild in terms of the pungent, sour and spicy 'tom yum' flavour we are used to, it's actually a bit sweet. Served with beansprouts, pork, fish cake, peanuts and bits of pickled vegetable.

tom yum, Victory monument, Bangkok

All the soup bases however, are strongly flavoured, and have the distinctive Thai food style of being sweet, salty, sour and spicy all at the same time. Extra chilli is optional, but highly recommended.

Oh you may have noticed the fourth flavour is #####. That’s only because none of us have any idea what ##### was, and the waiters were unable to translate it. In the pictures, it’s the pink coloured soup. While it tastes sweet, salty, sour and spicy, much like all Thai food, it also has a stronger sour and odorous element described by the PigPig as ‘smelly socks’, which I assume to be due to fish sauce or something fermented. After much googling, I think the pink dish is yen ta fo. The pink colour comes from the special sauce made from preserved red bean curd and/or tomato ketchup.

yen ta fo, Victory monument, Bangkok

So all the bowls are fairly straightforward then; a small bundle of noodles, a few strips of meat, a couple of meat balls, a smattering of morning glory (kangkung) and bean sprouts. Side dishes here are fishballs (not bad, but the accompanying chilli sauce is wickedly spicy) and fried won-ton pastry (sounds a little bit sad, its just fried pastry, but it was awesome to dip into the soup) and pork crackling (we passed on this).

Boat noodles sides, Victory monument, Bangkok

Here are some tips then:
  • Ignore how dirty it looks. It’s fine. We didn’t get sick. A tip I picked up later is to avoid the straws though.
  • They taste delicious. Try them all. Try a few of each.
  • Order a few bowls at a time otherwise you’ll still be hungry and have to wait another 5-10 minutes for the next order to come in.
  • The 4 of us ate 22 bowls altogether, and we were holding ourselves back as we were aiming for dessert afterwards. We saw locals eating 7-10 bowls each.
  • Some people like to order a few bowls (4 or 5 seems reasonable to me) then throw them all into one, to create a decent sized serving.
  • There are seasonings on the table: sugar, fish sauce, sesame oil, salt, all free to use. But we didn’t think it was needed.
  • The water on the table are free.

Boat noodles, Victory monument, Bangkok

Take the BTS and stop at Victory Monument BTS station, and walk northbound towards the monument. Once you past the monument, look down to the streets and find this stretch of stalls lining the canal. PS. we tried the shop with waitress wearing bright orange tops.

Details of restaurant:
Sutyot Kuetiau Lua Payak
Link on Foursquare
Thanks to a kind reader Rcadventure :)


Spiced Roast Chicken

Sunday, 15 July 2012

What happens when you have more than 20 bottles of spices in the pantry? No matter how you mix them together, you will still end up with an extremely tasty meal.

Spiced Roast Chicken

Spiced Roast Chicken

Printable recipe
By Pig Pig's Corner

Prep time: 15 mins
Marinate time: 1 hr-overnight
Cook time: 20 mins
Yield: serves 4

  • 1 whole (about 1 kg) chicken - chopped into pieces
  • 3 tbs oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 handful fresh coriander - coarsely chopped
Spice mix:
  • 1 tbs coriander powder
  • 10 whole cardamon - crushed
  • 1 tbs cumin powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

  • Mix together all ingredients except for fresh coriander. Leave to marinate for at least 1 hr, preferably overnight.
  • Put chicken pieces in the ActiFry. Close the lid and cook for about 20 mins. Pour in the rest of the marinade and fresh coriander, continue cooking for another 5-10 mins or until browned.[OR roast in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for about 45-50 mins or until done.]

Sawadika Bangkok - Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Sawadika! Kopunka! Shui jing jing! Okay, My Thai is only limited to those few words...anywho, we made a short trip to Bangkok last weekend with another couple and it was a blast! Our stomachs are very much happy, will go into more of that in another post! Our curiosities about certain things satisfied...well, you will know what I mean if you watched "The Hangover 2". Hint: not the lady-boys.

Squeezing Bangkok into just 2 days is a challenge, there's a whole long list of things that I wanted to see and eat, but the glutton in me somehow managed to cut my "to-see" list to just two places: The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, which is Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The temple is located within the Grand Palace compound. Killing two birds with one stone, and more time for eating and shopping, wee!!

The Grand Palace Bangkok

Remember to dress conservatively, no sleeveless or shorts, not even three quarters. Sarong is available for rental inside once you pass through the main entrance for free with a deposit of 200 THB. We did not get to rent any as the rental place closes at 2 p.m. or so. Our taxi driver had to rent from one of the vendors outside the palace for 30 THB a piece.

The Grand Palace Bangkok

Better off wearing these for an hour two rather than getting hot and sweaty in long pants.

The Grand Palace consists several buildings, halls and pavilions with different styles of architecture. There's even a mini Angkor Wat. Don't ask me why.

The Grand Palace Bangkok angkor wat

The compound is ridiculously huge and you need at least 2 hours to fully explore the place. The palace is no longer the royal residence but is still used for ceremonial purposes.

The Grand Palace Bangkok

The Grand Palace Bangkok

Ancient wall paintings.

The Grand Palace Bangkok wall paintings

The routine maintenance of wall paintings.

The Grand Palace Bangkok wall paintings

Wat Phra Kaew, the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha sits atop a huge gold altar in the center of the temple. Nice to know: the buddha changes costume three times a year to correspond to the summer (crown and jewelry), winter (golden shawl), and rainy months (gilt robe and headdress). It is an important ritual and is performed by the Thai king.

Wat Phra Kaew, Temple of the Emerald Buddha Bangkok

Dipping lotus buds into holy water and sprinkle water onto the head for good luck.

Wat Phra Kaew, Temple of the Emerald Buddha Bangkok

Demons that stand guard at each of the entrances.

The Grand Palace Bangkok

Soldiers marching, saw this on our way out of the palace compound.

The Grand Palace Bangkok

Royal Reception Halls

The Grand Palace Bangkok

Open: Daily 08:30 - 15:30
Admission fee is 400 THB.
A strict dress code applies.