Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

Aren't you tired of the usual communal or cafe brunch offerings yet? Well JW Marriott Singapore South Beach comes to the rescue with their classy brunch "A Japanese Affair" at Akira Back. Buffet it is not. Instead, you get to feast on an 8-course brunch designed by Executive Chef Tomoyuki Kiga.
Customize your own brunch with the varied choices provided. For your sake, i've expanded my waistline just to taste everything, so that you wouldn't waste your calories! Start with some AB Sake Junmai Ginjo (30ml) instead of the regular soda or Gemmaicha that is included in the course.
I was half worried that a huge pizza would show up on the table for this carb course. Well turns out that the pizza is more of a thin crunchy cracker. Both the tuna and mushroom are lovely! If you want a rich and robust flavor, go for the truffle mushroom. The tuna with onion is rather refreshing too. 
For the Zensai course, i'm not too sure what we had but it's probably the salad of the day. Loved the presentation of this crunchy salad, adequately spiked by a spicy goma sauce. The way to eat this is to smash it all and mix it together. 
The Sakana course is either the Sashimi or Sushi. Pick 3 from the list of fresh fish that is flown in twice weekly from Tsukiji (where else right?). The regular selection of maguro, hamachi, shake, unagi, tako, and tamago is available.
For a Japanese restaurant, i didn't think the sushi rice was up to standard, it definitely needs more seasoning in it. The fish were alright, but the unagi was a tad rubbery. 

The Agemono course of tempura presents 3 deep fried items of your choice. White fish, ebi, soft shell crab, eggplant, sweet potato and shiitake are available. While i enjoyed the seafood, i thought the batter could less heavy as it held a fair bit of excess oil. 
Cleanse your palate with either the vodka lychee granita or raspberry sorbet before moving on to the mains! I recommend the tender Beef cheek with soy bordelaise, honey roasted carrot, oba kimchee; or the Spring chicken, done in a spicy Korean spicy marinade.
The grilled Hamachi Kama was rather plain, and the chirashi-don failed me with their rice. 
Not full still? Well after the Garlic fried rice or Hosomaki roll, you'll arrive at slumberland in no time.
I'd go with the crunchy and fragrant garlic fried rice for sure, even though you may need more than a couple of mints after. 
For desserts, the Shiratama was gorgeous. I loved the milk pudding that held up all the little Japanese sweets.
The Matcha cake was rich but the sweetness was balanced by the tart strawberry compote. I enjoyed both, but the pudding was just right to end the heavy meal.

Akira Back, JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach
30 Beach Road, Level B1M, Singapore 189763
Tel: +65 6818 1914
Weekend Brunch: 12 - 3pm 

Duoro Valley is a mandatory wine lover stop when one is in Porto Portugal. While Duoro Valley is known for their Port wine, they also produce other wines. Of course, the best way to learn about the various varietals is to drink them! You could do a self drive if you wish as the valley is only about 1.5h away from Porto. However, be warned that the roads can be treacherous, especially when one has a bit to drink. I decided on a wine tour so that the burden could be taken off us and we could just enjoy the drinking along the way! 
I picked Duoro Exclusive after doing my research. The small team consists of locals from the Wine Valley and they'd drive from the Valley to pick you up from Porto and back. Each Gold Experience tour takes a maximum of 7 person and you can also opt for a private tour. What drew me to this tour is not only the learning experience but also the great food that's offered in the package. While most of the tours would bring you to traditional taverns for lunch, our wine-lunch was at the one Michelin star DOC Restaurant by celebrity Chef Rui Paula, right next to the Duoro River. And all of that was only for 190€ per person.
Our guide Sandra picked us up bright and early at 9am and gave us an explanation of the history and geography of the valley along the way. We learned that Duoro has the oldest DOC for Port (1726) and the same grapes/blends are used for both port and table wines. Blends are huge in Portugal wine producers and they can have anything from 3 to 40 varietals in a bottle (it's mad). Even their fields are blended- you don't get a single plot of anything, they are all mixed!
As Duoro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site, everything is done by hand- From building the vertical dry walls of shale and slate, to the harvesting of the grapes. It's hard work and dedication!
Afternoon Tea is a guilty pleasure of mine. They have me at scones and clotted cream. Plus all the dainty sweets accompanied by specially brewed tea and there goes the weekend and the diet plan. I'm sure you've had that guilt creep up on you after one of those indulgent sessions, plus that lethargy after the sugar rush! Well, now you can have your cake and eat it sinlessly. Capella Singapore's designer kitchen, Chef's Table has added a healthier option to its Capella Tea ExperienceWellness Tea Time, which is available every Friday afternoon from 3 to 5pm.
The menu is conceptualised by Chef Sandra Lim of Live Fruitfully, a certified raw food chef, and Chef David Senia, the Culinary Director of Capella Singapore, and together they have produced a unique five-course menu of gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free sweets. 
Savories before sweets. The Tempeh portobello slider with green goddess cream is full of 'meaty' flavors and textures. This tempeh was certainly more enjoyable than the Nasi Padang stereotype and we love the herby coconut yogurt cream and onion chutney that were layered in the mini burger.
I'm a critical person if i may admit so myself. Things that puts me off when it comes to food/restaurants in general- instagrammable food (since they can't score in the taste dept, why not make them look pretty at least), trends (think rainbow cake, bingsu, cheese toast, fusion etc.), and also strange names. Beast and Butterflies at M Social Singapore happen to fall into 2 of the above categories (Asian fusion and the weird thing thing), BUT they also made a successful attempt in changing my prejudice. 
If you must know, the menu is divided into 2 categories- 'Beast’ for hearty and bold flavors; and ‘Butterflies’ for lighter cooking styles to bring out natural flavors of the ingredients. Instead of Asian fusion, i would say that the food is traditional Chinese with an unexpected twist.

We started with a Tomato Latte ($9), possibly the most non Asian tasting dish we tried. The gazpacho was a refreshing palate cleanser with the tastes of capsicum, crunchy smoky bacon bits and basil oil pearls. 
The Scallop Carpaccio ($26) may sound Japanese or Italian but every bite was Cantonese. The Hokkaido scallops are thinly sliced, marinated with yuzu and sesame oil, and topped with shiso leaves, crispy flour bits and fried shallots. If you close your eyes and have this, you'd probably think that you're having cheong fun (steamed rice rolls). I love the umami flavors in this one! 
Another favorite was the Lobster Porridge ($38), which is perfect wet weather comfort food. The clear crab broth is simmered for eight hours to give that sweet seafood flavor. The bonito flakes add lovely smokiness to the soup as well. Other than lobster, there're also abalone slices in this Teochew style rice porridge.
O Porto. O sweet wine. The magical port of Portugal is the second largest city in Portugal, the first being Lisboa of course (read my Lisbon travel review here). Spend some time here exploring the old district of Ribeira, which dates back to the Middle Ages, take in the architecture and winding streets in the UNESCO World Heritage square, and of course, sample all that sweet liquor that Porto has to offer, preferably by the Duoro River. 
Day 1: Start in Ribeira and be prepared to get lost in the historical labyrinth.  
For sights, you could check out the Porto Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace (Sé Do Porto), the latter is the religious centre of Porto.  
I was fascinated with the São Bento train station, considered one of the most decorative of European stations. Illustrative blue and white azulejos tiles depict significant scenes of Portugal's history. Story was that the city waited for a long time to build the station, on the site of the Convent of São Bento da Avé Maria as there was still 1 living nun in the convent. The convent was quickly demolished once she passed.
It has been more than a year since my last visit to Le Binchotan and the French-Japanese restaurant has come a long way since. Chef Jeremmy Chiam has taken over the reigns as Chef-Owner, the style is more restaurant than izakaya now, and the dishes are cooked with more finesse.
The focus is still on using French and Japanese ingredients and techniques, with a surprising touch of binchotan character and taste in each dish. 
Take the Uni & Caviar ($25) for instance. At first look and taste , you wonder where the binchotan is featured. Well, it's in hidden the cold corn mousse- some charred corn kernels suspended in the smooth sweet cream for contrast. Dig into the briny and sweet wild-caught bafun uni and sturgeon caviar. Note that the spheres are not ikura but shoyu for that added flavor. This is one uni-corn combination that you cannot afford to miss out on! 
Judging by the name- Binchotan Burnt Aubergine ($12), i was expecting a charred eggplant to appear on my plate but all that char was removed, leaving only the slippery flesh. The meat was served cold with yogurt and a lightly spiced sesame dressing (more fragrant than spicy). If you're into eggplant, this is a good appetizer to get your stomach juices flowing.
I wished I had more to offer you on the lush green Azores Islands, the hidden secret of Portugal. Like trekking through the verdant green landscapes in São Miguel, checking out volcanoes (the islands are still volcanic), or canyoning in Sao Jorge.. 
BUT the weather on Azores is insanely unpredictable, as they are in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean surrounded by absolutely nothing, and we ended up spending 3 gloomy rainy days on it, and missing out on all possible outdoor activities. 
We chose to stay on São Miguel, which is the largest island of the lot. The flight from Lisbon took about 2.5h and there are 5 - 6 flights daily. What we did managed to do in that cold wetness, was to get warm in the volcanic hot springs though! Head over to Furnas on São Miguel, quite famous for their natural thermal pools for a relaxing soak.
Hot Spring Pool Dona Beija comes recommended by many. It's a far cry from the Japan onsens that we are accustomed to. There are 3 - 4 pools, mostly crowded, and the water was at best warm. Still, go try it if you're there. 

Another place to take a dip on Furnas is at Parque Terra Nostra. The magnificent garden has several pools and you can also enjoy the different trees, plants, and flowers in the huge compound. 
Portugal is the new destination to visit in western Europe and in particular, the sun-kissed capital Lisbon, which bustles with life and energy, just like a mini-NYC. Galleries, museums, markets, azure blue ocean and great surfs, are just around the corner. 
The country aims to please really, with budget-friendly great eats and English speaking locals, it is extremely easy for anyone to visit. Here are some tips to visiting Lisbon, Portugal. 
SEE & DO
1. Start with a walking tour of the city. Because it's the best and fastest way to get acquainted with the city's unique neighborhoods and also gain insights on the city's history, as well as tips and tricks known to locals. 
Like how you shouldn't bother paying to go up the Santa Justa lift for the view of the city when you can just walk right up to the top. 
Or how the Castelo de São Jorge, or St. George's Castle, which is perched atop Lisbon's highest hill in Alfama, is a fake castle that is built to rip off the tourists. I say, run up there for the egg tarts at Pastelaria Santo Antonio. They are pretty worth the workout calories.
Am not keeping up with all the new openings but Tablescape at the new Grand Park City Hall is one decent Modern European restaurant. Helmed by Executive Chef Robert Chan, Tablescape aims to serve classic fine dining dishes that are not pretentious, and at an affordable price. 
Dinner started on a high with the bread selection from the trolley. I had a hard time holding myself back from the house baked breads. The aroma of buttery buns was simply rousing. 
My favorites were the Focaccia with Cheese (lovely pull-apart bun); and the Onion Bread (buttery and crunchy exterior with an airy inside). The Squid Ink Brioche was super fluffy too! 
Salmon Gravlax with Vegetable Shavings, Lemon Myrtle Oil and Cream Cheese Ice Cream ($16) features thick cut, sashimi grade salmon which wasn't too salty. I enjoyed the refreshing lemon spritz on the fish and the cheese ice cream hit all the umami notes without overpowering the salmon. 
The Steak Tartare ($24) & crispy battered poached egg. Crunchy bits of spicy onion, cold smooth USDA beef, warm oozy yolk with crispy batter and aioli.
Dessert parlour Sugarhaus by day, speakeasy steakhouse Fat Belly by night. These two are reasons why you can camp out at Serene Centre for the whole day without having to go hungry. 
In the day, Sugarhaus offers diners of all ages homemade European-inspired ice cream. My favorite was the smooth-like-butter Dutch Chocolate which is made with a concoction of different types of chocolates. The Sea Salt Toffee is another one that you cannot miss. I love the saltiness in this, which has a butter caramel aftertaste. Have the ice cream on their own ($3.50/$4.30 per scoop) or with their fresh waffles ($6). 
Other exciting flavors include Sour Cherry, made with amarena cherries imported from Italy; or the Hibiscus Yogurt for an exotic and aromatic treat. 
Apart from ice cream, of course there are a mix of homemade desserts on display at the counter. Fat Belly is where i had my first galaxy cake and i must say that it changed my mind on artificial looking cakes (which is the main reason why i did not eat any earlier).
Sugarhaus’ Galaxy Tart ($8) is a dome of beautiful white chocolate mirror glaze that is filled with chocolate mousse, raspberry jelly and chocolate crumble. It's a lovely mix of tartness and rich smoothness. 
Next up is the Lemon Popsicle Tart ($8). As its name suggests, the mouth-watering tart comes in the shape of a popsicle filled with lemon sable, lemon parfait and coated with white chocolate. I love the sharpness in the lemon cream, with a crunchy sable that is reminiscent of the Chinese cashew cookie. 
 
Sugarhaus also offers a simple menu of savoury options available till 5pm. We started with the Melted Cheese Toastie ($12) which has gruyere, cheddar, and mozzarella sandwiched in a distinctly sour sourdough from Woodlands Sourdough next door. Not my preferred toastie sadly.
How about a modern okonomiyaki? The Corn & Zucchini Fritters ($15) was more on the wet floury spectrum, slightly salvaged by my love for kewpie mayo, bonito flakes and okonomiyaki sauce. AND THAT FRIED BACON! And sunny side up egg. 
For a more filling bite, the Crab Linguine ($22) satisfies with the heady and umami peppery prawn sauce. Shards of shredded blue swimmer crab claw added a sweetness to the savory pasta. The linguine was on the slightly softer end but i wouldn't mind ordering this again. 
Come nightfall, the bar section of Sugarhaus turns into Fat Belly, serving a lucky 10 customers alternative cuts of beef, particularly the Flat Iron (or Oyster Blade). The menu also features other cuts such as short rib, skirt, rib-eye. 
The Flat Iron ($22), was quite marbled and tender. It certainly has more meaty flavors than the usual steak though i still prefer a ribeye. All steaks come with a side of house salad and chimichurri sauce. Very Argentinean.
For an additional $5, guests can also enjoy side dishes such as Creamed Kale and Guanciale Mac & Cheese. There will also be one dessert exclusively available on Fat Belly’s menu: the Foie Gras ($13) is served with foie gras ice cream, brulee banana, speculoos and roasted nuts. If that's too funky for you, stick with their usual, they're good.

Sugarhause and Fat Belly
#01-03A, Serene Centre, 10 Jalan Serene, Singapore 258748 
Tel: +65 6314 2247 
Sun - Thu: 11am - 10pm, 6 - 10pm (Fat Belly)
Fri & Sat: 11am - 11pm (Last order 5pm for hot food; 15 minutes before closing for desserts), 6pm - 11pm (last order 10pm)