Bincho @ Tiong Bahru

Bincho shares the same shop space as tiong bahru’s acclaimed Hua bee mee pok. Hua bee makes use of the front half, so take the back entrance for bincho.

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Essentially, bincho is a yakitori restaurant. But that is quite the understatement. I visited for lunch – they do yakitori rice bowls set lunch for $25-30. It is definitely one of the best, and most value for money set lunches in Singapore.

My dining companion ordered a pork don while I ordered a chicken patty don (they go by their japanese names on the menu, but I cannot remember them).

The set lunch comes with a slew of side dishes, and first of the lot is this cooked chicken/ carrot/ radish/ onion dish, drizzled with a light soupy gravy. Heart warming and appetizing.20140701-090305-32585673.jpg

Next was the salmon skin salad. Who doesn’t like fried salmon skin, right? Dressing for the salad was also a winner.

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Chicken wings in sweet sauce. I was surprised by their generosity. There were so many side dishes, and all of them quite good.

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Miso soup was special, they added some beans/ bits inside to add a crunchy texture. It was fun to drink the soup. I suspect they cooked the soup with pork bone because there is a unique flavour.

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If you have a small appetite, you might already be full by now. But the dons finally arrive and they are amazing!

My chicken patty don came with sweet potato, zucchini, jalapeño, onions, ginger, and topped with raw egg. I cleaned up the bowl spotless. So delicious. The chicken patty was so thick and juicy. I enjoyed the vegetables too because I don’t like too much meat. And the raw egg just took it to another level. I can’t even. I suspect this might be their signature dish, because it is at the top of their menu?

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My dining companion’s pork don came with a generous serving of pork, onions, and ginger on the side. The pork was a bit tough in my opinion, but it isn’t my favourite meat to begin with. My partner liked it though.

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Ended off with either a black sesame or green tea ice cream.20140701-090001-32401780.jpg

The gastronomic journey was exciting, and very affordable. Everybody should try bincho. There is no reason not to! I can see myself going back again and again for lunch. I wouldn’t mind going alone, or with an old friend for a catch up session. Note that it is not suitable for big groups as it is a very small place.

If you are interested in dinner, they have set meals at $60, 80, 120. Which I feel is reasonable as there is a lot more food.

aside: a few interesting things…

-it would be nice to cross over to plain vanilla nearby for a post-meal coffee and cake. I love the outdoor spacious concept of this space.

-furniture, chopsticks, etc are shared between Hua bee and bincho. It is interesting to see their different takes on the same items. While Hua bee looks old school, bincho looks rustic chic.

-menus are written on blackboards on the wall. There are no paper menus. If you have difficulty reading, they will happily take the blackboard off the wall, and hold it up in front of you!

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Bam! Tapas Sake Bar @ Tras Street

I do enjoy a good sake every now and then, but realize it is never consumed outside of japanese cuisine. Whereas wine and beer are universally accepted.

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I guess the founders of Bam think so too – executive chef of now defunct Santi at Marina Bay Sands worked together with sake expert Derrick Lim to start Bam, where tapas plates are recommended to be paired with their extensive list of sake. The choice to serve sake in wine glasses is also a symbol of fusing two different cultures.

The adventurous concept does not stop there. Dishes incorporate fine ingredients from Japan, Spain and around Asia into Spanish style dishes. The results were impressive – creative, refined, and tasty.

The first dish we had was “kampong egg with baby sotong and chorizo ($16)” This was great, but to be fair, you really can’t go wrong with a runny egg. But to add, everything on the plate was so refined, even baby sotong. It was a perfect deep fried golden down, crispy and flavourful. The textures of the crispy + runny + ham = winning formula.

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Next, we had “uni with burrata, salicorn and chicken soft bones ($33)”. This was foodgasmic. With every bite I put into my mouth, I closed my eyes and imagined a better world. Creamy uni mixed with milky buratta, why has this never been done before? They are a match made in food heaven and I still remember the explosion in my mouth today. I will go back just for this dish.

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“Pasta a la plancha with prawns and sake butter ($26)” was a bit less revolutionary, but comfort food at its best. Fresh and plump shrimp!20140701-085643-32203912.jpg

We ordered a bottle of sake to accompany our food. And all in all it was about $200 for everything. Prices are a bit steep here, considering the portions. But if you are in a group of friends and you are sharing it, it isn’t that bad. Plus it is deffo quality food.

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I really like the concept, and am happy that sake is growing more popular in Singapore.

Bye!

The Beast @ Jalan Klapa

The poster child for southern cuisine is undoubtedly fried chicken, the ultimate comfort food. Lesser known southern classics include pulled pork, bacon, mashed potatoes, grit, cornbread, etc. Note that it’s definitely not for anybody on a clean-eating diet. Here’s what we had when we visited Singapore’s first ever southern restaurant & bourbon bar in the arab street area:

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Started with happy hour beers – $10nett per pint.

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Chili Concarne $14 is a no-brainer when it comes to sharing food among friends. It is hearty, tasty and easy to eat. It was served piping hot and we enjoyed the savoury start to the meal. However we realized later that we were served nacho chips instead of cornbread, that was stated in the menu. We wonder why?

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Chicken & Waffle $20 – Here, half a chicken is deep fried but without the sickening oily feel. The blend of sweet and savory when eaten with the waffles and maple bourbon syrup was perfectly on point. The gluten-free waffles were soft yet crisp. Quite mind blowing and finished this as quickly as it was served. MUST order!

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Jack & The Beast Stalk $12 – if the previous dish was mind blowing, this was definitely earth shattering. In this dish, green beans are deep fried with a SECRET seasoning. We tried getting it out of the waitresses, but they refused to divulge. If we had to hazard a guess, my dining companion said sugar while I say plum. So you can guess that it is sweet. MUST MUST order!

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Portions are big, and I would recommend ordering one dish at a time, as southern food is best enjoyed hot. Only move onto ordering the next after you have finished the previous dish. They cook pretty quickly anyway. Not forgetting the free flow salted popcorn that the waitresses were very happy to top up voluntarily.

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Onto the drinks – All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. The main difference between whiskey and bourbon is that bourbon must be made entirely in the USA. The distinctive flavors are often attributed to the spring water used.

If you are a bourbon beginner, do try their flights. These are sampling platters that allow you to taste three different bourbons. There is an introductory flight ($34) for beginners, or low/high-rye ($34) if you have more specific tastes. We went for the small batch ($36) flight because we wanted something exclusive, followed by a single barrel flight ($38) for a more premium experience.

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With flights, there will definitely be hits and misses but it’s a good way to expose yourself to various spirits, and understand the difference in tasting notes, aromas, palate, aftertaste, etc. If you need guidance, they provide notes for you to study as you drink.

I also tried a couple of cocktails; the Beast Smash, and the Scarlet Sour ($20 each). I requested extra sour for both, and made them doubles. Meanwhile, my dining companion progressed down the bourbon menu, one glass after another ($20 each).

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We also ventured to get shooters ($12 each)! Being a sister bar of Chupitos in clarke quay, they have similar daredevil shooters mixed from the weirdest ingredients. We ordered one of everything from the menu. And I would say Pickleback was the weirdest! It made me feel like snooki! It is bourbon mixed with pickle juice and I absolutely underestimated the intensity of the pickle because it was really overwhelming. It’s like eating a Macdonald’s cheeseburger and you want to pick out the pickles but you can’t in this case!

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Service was stellar – we made friends with every one of the waitresses. They were outgoing, friendly and funny. Bartender was knowledgeable about bourbon, not just about the taste but also the background stories of each distillery. She gave spot on recommendations everytime we requested for a specific type.

Chalks are provided in the bathroom to encourage customers to draw on the walls. No rude messages spotted as far as I know, and shows that the crowd is really decent. LOVED the adventure time cameo.

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In the southern states, it’s never about pretenses. It’s about carelessly over-indulging in too much fried food and good bourbon. And that is exactly what we did one fine Monday night after a hard day’s work. Swap out your heels for some cowboy boots and get ready for a really good time!

The total damage was $330 for 2 people, because we drink too much for our wallets’ good.

There is live music most nights but they failed to sing my song – “Why’d you only call me when you’re high?”

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Hashida Sushi @ Mandarin Orchard

Hashida Sushi is a fine dining sushi establishment at Mandarin Gallery. This is master sushi chef Tokio Hashida’s first restaurant outside of Japan. Choose from three lunch sets – $80, $120 or $250. For the higher end set lunches, you will get more premium seasonal fish, sashimi and others. We settled for the modest $120.

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We sat in a cosy six-seater room, and other people only joined us 1 hour later. So we had our chef all to ourselves! Our chef, Kimura Tomoo, was extremely knowledgeable, with years of experience at restaurants in Tokyo’s ginza, roppongi and akasaka areas. He very earnestly described every dish, ingredient and preparation method to us despite struggling with English at times. There were never ending stories, and so much to learn; for example the origins, the seasons, and the culture in Japan. His passion was an integral part of our experience at Hashida.

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By the way, see the knife there. That is an $8000 knife.

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To start with, we had a soya bean skin yudofu, with salmon roe and bonito jelly. Vegetarian monks used to eat this in ancient Japan, but without the roe of course. Very mild and clean flavours from the soya skin, complemented perfectly by the jelly and roe.

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Chawanmushi with scallop and white asparagus. It was soupier than usual chawanmushi. This soup was made from sakura leaf, since sakura is in season now. (Sakura starts to bloom from the south of Japan around this time, and proceeds upstate until it reaches the north in about May. During this season, Japanese enjoy sitting under cherry blossom trees and drinking sake, much like our Chinese mid-autumn festival, where we eat mooncake and drink tea.)

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The meal officially begins and sushi is served. There were 9 different sushi. The first sushi was ishikaya (striped sea perch). It is an amazing white fish with a bouncy texture, and you can taste the sweetness very subtly creep up on you.

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Kampachi (amberjack) has an almost rubber-like texture, like a firm jelly that is very chewy. Quite similar to the previous fish.

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Shimaji (Jack mackerel). Sushi is all about the balance of flavours. Instead of the usual wasabi in sushi, our chef replaced it with Japanese lime instead, because wasabi would be too strong and overpower the taste of the mackerel. The Japanese lime adjusts for the perfect balance of flavours.

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Maguro (blue fin tuna) you might think is uninteresting at first, but our chef used a special marinade to prepare the fish. It is made from soya sauce, Japanese sweet wine, sake, and others that I cannot remember right now. Notice how only the alcohols stuck with me. Hmm. Maguro is not my personal favourite fish, but I do love the dressing very much.

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Taira gai (pen shell clam), is an interesting type of shellfish that I would describe as a crunchy scallop. You can only find it in south Japan. It was served aburi style, and this was a dish that truly blew us away.

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Same kawa (a kind of small halibut) was also another noteworthy fish. Some people nickname it shark’s skin, because it looks like it on the outside. The texture was fatty and soft, like melt-in-your-mouth, but not too fatty as it still held a level of firmness.

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At this point, we were served some miso soup, a welcome warmth after all that cold food. This special miso soup came with a generous number of clams.Miso soup and its paste vary with each prefecture in Japan. This particular miso soup we had is said to have liver detox properties, which delighted us because heaven knows we need it. Our chef encouraged us to drink up too :p

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Ever the crowd pleaser, the appearance of uni ensued in about 5 minutes of photo taking. A truly decadent dish that needs no words at all. We all go a bit weak for uni don’t we? And to say they were generous with the portion would be an understatement. There was SO MUCH!

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Our final sushi was a chutoro, also a perennial favourite.

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The tiny unsuspecting yellow cube below is a tamago, but don’t let it fool you. Before we dug in, our chef kept proclaiming that it was a cake. And I didn’t really get it, until I actually sank my teeth in. It is a very special tamago, very sweet, with a sponge cake texture. Super fluffy like those Japanese cheese cakes. That’s why in the past, Japanese used to eat tamago as a dessert rather than as sushi.

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We have reached the end of our gastronomic adventure, but even the closing was epic. Japanese fruits – strawberry and melon were unbelievably sweet.

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If you are interested in going for dinner, it is omakase style. But you can speak to your chef if you have any preferences, allergies, or budget. It is useful to note that Hashida is a sushi restaurant, so there is little to no hot food served, besides maybe chawanmushi and aburi style sashimi. If you favour beef/duck in your sushi, you will find none here as fresh fish is the star at the restaurant.

A special mention to my dear friend, who generously treated me to this meal. I am very grateful you introduced me to Hashida. It is always a joy to dine with fellow foodies, and enjoy the finer things in life together. Good things are meant to be shared. In total, it was $290 for two people after tax. We are coming back again soon!

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&Sons @ China Square Central

A bacaro is not quite a restaurant, or a bar. It is where people stop by to have a drink and share a few small plates of cicheti after work. This concept originated in Venice and now we have our first and very own bacaro in Singapore, thanks to &Sons!

Having just opened in mid December, it is very new, so I was surprised that when I dropped by at 5.30pm it was already half full. And as it got later, the place filled to capacity. People were literally coming in droves. And there wasn’t even a happy hour.

20140224-193449.jpgThe place was modern chic – dark wood and everything. I don’t know why I feel “sassy” is the word for it. Might be the music; it is jazz, with a very James Bond kind of mood to it. I caught my companions and myself bobbing our heads during the 3 hours we spent here.

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So we sat down and ordered a bottle of wine to start. The wine list was reasonable. I’m so sick of places where wines are at least $80. Here, the wines start at $35 for a simple white. Also, they have an extensive selection of cheese available. So if you’re thinking of a wine-and-cheese night, do try this place out.

Their food came in small sharing portions, and everything we ordered was super fresh and perfectly executed. They are clearly serious about their food. The standard for every dish served, every glass poured, is 10/10.

Sea Urchin Spaghetti Carbonara ($16). This didn’t quite taste like sea urchin, but it was the first dish that came, and we were starving so we devoured this eggy creamy dish in seconds! Accompanying it was crispy pork bits. A very simple savoury dish that you will definitely love.

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Asparagus, Garlic & Anchovy sauce ($9). An interesting salad to add some green to the table. Anchovy sauce was very subtle, and there’s a bit of blended beetroot inside as well. The dressing kind of sat in the background and allowed the taste of the vegetables to take center stage. Overall really healthy and clean, and the garlic chips added to it an extra crunch.

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Kurubota Pork Neck with Porcini Sauce ($15). It may be advertised as a kurubota pork dish, but the star here was undoubtedly the mushrooms in porcini sauce. It was super tasty. Pork was rather tough. The salad was dressed with balsamic vinaigrette which I feel balanced out the other flavours of the dish very well.

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Prawn Cioppino with capers. ($12) I was reminded of tom yum when this arrived. It did turn out to be rather spicy, for angmoh standards anyway. The croutons were a really nice touch – it was fun to munch on them dipped in the spicy broth. I was extremely blown away by the prawns though. They were incredibly fresh and juicy – better than some seafood restaurants even. Really impressive and I super loved this dish!

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Iberico pork and truffle paccheri ($15) This was an impromptu order because we were experiencing serious envy over our neighbouring table’s food. If you love cream based pastas, this is an absolute must order! The candied seaweed was kinda interesting too.20140224-193556.jpg

I HIGHLY recommend this place for groups of friends. Not only is it incredibly chic, it has substance to boot. The food far surpassed expectations, and all at very reasonable prices.

Do note that the crowd is largely the after work folk, so when I visited in my plain tshirt n jeans and a backpack, I did feel slightly out of place.

I don’t mind coming back again!

  • 20 Cross Street China Square Central #01-19
  • Singapore, Singapore 048422
  • +65 6221 3937
11:30 am – 12:00 am

Pasta Brava @ Craig Road

Pasta Brava was established in 1992, that’s almost as old as me! Clearly it has what it takes to stand the test of time; it is still standing strong at its Craig Road location. Maybe even stronger than ever? Reservations are almost impossible to make on weekends + special occasions. So hats off to them because 22 years is not easy to get through. I would know.

(Speaking of Craig Road, it has quite good fengshui for Italian restaurants to set up shop, it seems. A few steps down from Pasta Brava is inItaly, newer but also great food. This street is a failsafe option if you’re in the mood for Italian.)

It is easy to see why Pasta Brava managed to stick around. It’s got the traditional Italian restaurant formula honed and mastered. These places never try too hard, they just want to be your cosy, traditional, hearty Italian restaurant with the friendliest of waiters. They have extensive menus with simple, classic dishes. You can bring along anyone from your grandma, to your date, to your business associates. There’s something about these restaurants that you know you can always count on, whether 2 years or 22 years down the road. They stay the same.

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So at Pasta Brava we started with a bread basket and a few pieces of chalk to draw with. Someone told me that this custom started in Italy. When business meetings were held over lunch, people would draw on the tables to illustrate their ideas. So restaurants started providing paper and chalk for people to write on.

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For starters, we had the beef carpaccio with rocket salad and parmesan flakes ($18).

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Duck liver with porcini sauce and truffle oil. ($22)

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Caprese salad, because what’s an Italian meal without some cheese. ($16) This was a really good piece of buffalo mozarella. It was light, yet just creamy enough!

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Mushroom soup. ($8)

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Ravioli filled with minced beef, served with a light gorgonzola cheese sauce. ($23.50) I thought this was really easy to eat, and a good sharing dish.

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Carbonara ($22).

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Squid ink sauce seafood spaghetti. ($24)

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Oven glazed king prawns with prosciutto and mozzarella, flavoured with white wine ($30).

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Grilled beef tenderloin tagliata. With herbs, rocket leaves and parmesan flakes. ($31) I would say that if you can only order one thing here at Pasta Brava, it better be this. I especially love it because I always find steak to be too heavy, but when it is thinly sliced as such, topped with my fav veg and cheese – I can’t help asking for more.

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Finished off with a Panna Cotta and Chocolate Lava Cake.

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In summary,

Perfect for: Groups, birthdays, celebrations

Ambience: Warm, cosy, intimate. Not too dark.

Service: Experienced wait staff. Prompt and helpful. We were never kept waiting between each course.

Come again: Yes, I will be back again and I won’t wait 22 years.

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Address
11 Craig Road
Phone
62277550

Tom Yum Kungfu @ Circular Road

It’s a funny story, how I came to know of Tom Yum Kungfu. I saw a facebook picture of my friend eating here, and in the background, at the next table was another friend of mine. (They don’t know each other.) Two of my friends eating here on the same night. Gots to be worth checking out.

A few days later, another friend mentioned coming here for dinner. I knew then that this place was already the next big thing that I didn’t know of! So sorry for being so out of touch with the restaurant scene guys. What kind of blogger am I.

Like I said, it’s already the next big thing, so reservations are advised as it is wildly popular especially on weekends. A visit on Monday night already saw a full house, and required a reservation.

We chose to sit outside. As with all BBQ joints, it gets smokey, and I’m sure we all hate how our hair smells afterwards. The outdoor seats provided a more airy environment to leave at least one worry behind.

20140217-214726.jpgThey set up the BBQ/Steamboat stove, which came in a big bowl that they placed on our table top. It’s a rather vintage set – looks like it came from the 1960’s. Unlike other mookata and BBQ joints, it isn’t electric. This fits with the vibe of the whole establishment – quirky vintage. Most mookata joints I’ve been to are very basic plastic table and chair kind of places. So this style really sets Tom Yum Kungfu apart from others.

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I think it’s a lot easier/ value-for-money if you just order the set menus, so we ordered the Large set for 4pax. ($49). It comes with pork, beef, prawns, scallops, fishcake on the meat platter. In the veggie bowl there’s maggi mee, tang hoon, cabbage and kang kong. Lots of food to go around!

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Add the spices given into the soup and mix, to add a spicy flavour to your soup.

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Place the lard and fats at the top of the BBQ plate, allow it to melt and start cooking!

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The meat isn’t great quality, but there was a great variety and just enough to keep everyone happy. The soup was tasty too.

I think I liked the veggie bowl more than anything. I kept eating the veggies and noodles 🙂

We also ordered a side of deep fried kangkong, which is tempura kangkong and served with a thousand island-like dressing. This kicked ass, kungfu style.

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It was definitely tiring having to cook your own food but it was great fun. Tom yum kungu has a lively ambience and is worth checking out with a group of friends!

Perfect for: After school or after work casual feasting! Come hungry. Dress casual. And be ready to work!

Ambience: Lively. Happening Thai and Korean pop music plays in the background. The young crowd also adds to the youthful, happening vibe.

Service: For such a busy place, service was good. We never prompted them to refill our soup a single time. They showed great initiative. And food came very quickly.

Come again: Yes

Address
16 Circular Road
Phone
65361646