Food Picks: Furry Bingsu

FURRY BINGSU

The spoon was halfway to my mouth when I startled myself.

What was that sound I just made?

The last time I checked, I was a human being. Not a cat. So why was I purring?

That sound – it was involuntary – came out of me as I dug into a bingsu at Cafe de Muse. The Korean chain is sprawled all over Isetan Scotts and the ground floor cafe is open 24/7. I had popped in one morning for takeout coffee and was enchanted by the replicas of the shaved ice desserts sitting on the counter.

So on a humid day, I stopped in for a bingsu. And it made me purr.

The Fresh Strawberry bingsu ($17.50) is different from others I have had. The ice crystals are like very tiny needles and ever-so-fine. And soft. Like fur. I kid you not. I thought the height of shaved ice perfection could be had only at After You Durian at Siam Paragon in Bangkok, but I was wrong.

This is the sort of dessert you need on a hot day. Sliced and slivered strawberries are plastered over the condensed milk-enriched shaved ice mountain. There are rivulets of strawberry coulis running down the mountain. A swirl of whipped cream. And the whole thing is topped with a strawberry macaron.

I had told myself that I could not possibly finish it and would stop at the halfway mark.

After all, before it arrived, I had had Pumpkins & Mushroom Salad ($18), a substantial salad featuring a large, thick and juicy grilled portobello mushroom, wedges of over-roasted pumpkin, dollops of sour cream and guacamole and chopped tomatoes (to call it salsa, as the menu does, would be to insult salsa), and a raft of rocket leaves.

But here I was, powering through the bingsu like a champion. It comes with extra coulis and sliced strawberries on the side and I used them both up.

Just when I thought I should stop, I discovered extra strawberries and extra coulis under the much-smaller-now hillock of furry ice.

Rrrrrrrrrr.

WHERE: Isetan Scotts, 01-K5/K6, Shaw House, 350 Orchard Road  MRT:Orchard TEL:6970-5011 OPEN: 24 hours daily INFO: www.cafedemuse.com

AMBITIOUS, DELICIOUS FARE

I like to think of Summer Hill in Sunset Way as the little French restaurant that could.

Out of that small kitchen has come all manner of delectable things, and the two latest offerings are ambitious and delicious.

The first is Wagyu Beef Bourguignon ($130, right). It is meant for two to three people but will easily serve at least four. Boy, is it rib-sticking and hearty. In that rich red wine and beef stock sauce is 400g of well-marbled Tajima wagyu brisket. There are lardons. There are mushrooms. There are shallots. And to go with it, mashed potatoes, steamed peas and carrots and a little plate of croutons for soaking up the sauce.

For special occasions, pre-order the Foie Gras-Stuffed Boneless Challand Duck ($238, left). It serves six to eight and is a sight to behold. A deboned Challand duck from France is stuffed with foie gras, ti wan chye and mushrooms. The deeply burnished bird looks substantial and it is, when carved into neat slices. It comes with a candied kumquat glaze to cut the richness, duck gravy, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Both need to be pre-ordered, so do that when you make reservations.

I wonder if they’ll let me do a takeaway. They would be perfect for a dinner party.

WHERE:Summer Hill, 01-62 Block 106 Clementi Street 12 MRT: Clementi TEL: 6251-5337 OPEN: Lunch: noon to 3pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 11.30am to 3pm (Saturdays and Sundays); dinner: 6 to 10pm (Tuesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays INFO: summerhill.sg

OVEN ROASTED CHICKEN HITS THE SPOT

I get cravings for Korean fried chicken all the time. Okay, scratch that. I get cravings for fried chicken all the time. I don’t care if it’s breaded and fried, dusted with turmeric and fried, fried and then doused with some sort of sticky sauce. I just want fried chicken when I want it. Which is all the time.

Along comes Goobne, a chain from Korea. Its speciality is oven roasted chicken.

After a massive eye roll – I never crave roast chicken – I decided to try it out, to see if there might be a healthier alternative when the craving strikes. Which is, I must remind you, all the time.

The website boasts that the chicken “contains less transfat, carbohydrates, sodium and calories since it does not use a single drop of oil during its cooking process”. There are so many things to pick on in that sentence, but I was eager to have a taste.

And it turned out to be good. But only if you are strategic about ordering.

Diners can choose from half a chicken ($17), whole ($30), boneless ($25) and wings ($13 for eight pieces) for the Goobne Original chicken (above). I ordered the half. And while the dark meat – drumstick, thigh, wing – was beautifully juicy, the breast meat was painfully dry. Best to just order wings.

The original is a little plain. But the other variations, such as the Deep Cheese, where powdered cheese is sprinkled on roast chicken; and the UFO Fondue, where you dip wings into bubbling cheese, are just too Rococo for me.

So I ordered the Galbi instead. The wings ($15 for eight pieces) turned out to be perfect. The Korean barbecue sauce, with umami from soy sauce, a kick from garlic and a blast of ginger, has a lot of personality. It made me forget that I was eating oven roasted chicken.

Although the chicken is the star, I rather like the Japchae ($13) too, with slivers of beef and springy glass noodles. The Mediterranean Citrus Salad ($11) is prosaic.

Will I want Goobne all the time? No. But I think about those galbi-glazed wings more often than I care to admit.

WHERE: Goobne, 01-115 Great World, 1 Kim Seng Promenade MRT: Orchard TEL: 8879-5898 OPEN: 11am to 10pm daily INFO: www.instagram.com/ goobnesingapore

DRINK UP

This job takes me places. Recently, I found myself someplace I’d never been to before – Bukit Panjang Plaza. I was there to seek out the improbably named Dum Dum Thai Drinks.

Yes really. The brand was started by a group of Indonesian and Thai friends, and “dum” or “deum” means drink in Thai. There is another outlet, at Guoco Tower, but I opted for Bukit Panjang.

It turned out to be a fruitful trip. Because I was there early, there was no queue and the friendly person manning the kiosk had time to chat. He walked me through the drinks and showed me how every cup is made to order.

I decided to have a tea, a green tea and a coffee drink, all iced.

The Thai Iced Coffee ($3.90) was pleasant enough but lacked depth. I would have liked the coffee to be much stronger.

The tea drinks were excellent. Coconut Palm Sugar Dum Dum Thai Tea ($5.80) had plenty of oomph and the tea is properly thick. It is sweetened with Indonesian gula aren, which I’ve used in cooking and baking, and the drink has the kind of depth white sugar can never provide. Aside from creamer, there is a swirl of evaporated milk on top.

The best one, however, is the Coconut Palm Sugar Dum Dum Thai Green Tea ($5.80), because the tea has a beguiling floral aroma that is not obscured by the sugar, creamer or milk. Both the tea drinks come with konjac spheres, which have a crunchy texture that is instantly addictive.

As I was walking away, I got to thinking about the name. And realised the owners had created a siren call: “Drink drink Thai drinks.”

WHERE: Dum Dum Thai Drinks, 02-08 Bukit Panjang Plaza MRT: Bukit Panjang OPEN: 10.30am to 9.30pm daily  INFO: www.facebook.com/dumdumthaidrinks.sg

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