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Chye Seng Huat Hardware

16 May

I can’t believe it’s been 3 months since my last post – my sincerest apologies! It’s summer now, and I’ll try my best to keep this blog alive once again.

Recently people have been talking about this brunch place in a hardware store…So I decided to try it out. Chye Seng Huat Hardware is a coffee and brunch cafe by the guys behind Papa Palheta, and located at 150 Tyrwhitt Road. It’s around the Kitchener Road and City Square Mall area, for those who can’t orientate themselves. I recommend driving, although parking may be rather problematic.

Enter CSHH and be greeted by a coffee bar, with patrons sitting around baristas experimenting with different ways of brewing different coffee. We sat by the coffee bar, and watched the brewing, although less than ten minutes into our meal we were rather put off by how extreme their actions and mannerisms were. Words simply can’t describe it. We decided to just concentrate on our conversation and food…although the food was, unfortunately, nothing to rave about.

Our ham omelette with extra cheese was overcooked for our liking. Thank god for the extra cheese, or else the omelette would have been rather dry.

Again, the scrambled eggs were overcooked, despite how at first glance we thought they looked pretty runny. We ordered extra mushrooms, for $2, if I recall correctly. We had but that miserable portion of poorly sauteed shrooms!

The pan-seared dory, on the other hand, was one of the the highlights of the day. It was perfectly seared, and the fish melted in our mouths. Mildly-seasoned with herbs and salt, this butter sauce was sinful and delightful.

Initially we were hesitant to order chicken patties, thinking they might be burger patties. To our surprise, it was delicious! This was the other highlight of the day. They were made of ground chicken, mixed with lemongrass and chili, and served with Thai sweet chili sauce. Extremely oily, but extremely addictive.

For dessert we ordered a French Toast (we can never resist French Toast!). I found it lacking in egg, and could have tasted better had they added some cinnamon for a twist.

If you like sweet and savory pastries, perhaps the walnut baklavas might interest you. Although they were rather pricey – two for $6.50 – they are bursting with the sweetness and the savoriness baklavas promise. I found them up to par with baklavas I’ve had in Europe, although I’ve yet to have baklavas from Turkey, arguably the land of the origin.

I was tempted by the almond croissant, since I have not had very great almond croissants since Mirabelle closed down. Unfortunately, it was just a normal almond croissant; nothing to rave about.

To close my meal, I ordered a signature blend, long black (aka Americano). It was extremely (overly) citrusy for my liking, although I was intrigued by the aftertaste of tofu.

I would consider this a no-frills brunch place (seen from the presentation of food, and no service charge), with little to choose from the menu. Beats me why they are always so crowded! Perhaps because it is not too expensive…for this meal we spent slightly over $70 for 5 dishes, 1 croissant, and 2 baklavas. Or perhaps because of the novelty of a hardware shop cafe.

My verdict: 1/5 spoonfuls. CCSH a detour? Skip it. In the area? No harm trying, if there’s a parking space nearby and a table available.

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Cong Caphe

1 Sep

I brewed a large cup of Vietnamese coffee today while studying, and my dear friend and suite mate R came in with some Vietnamese pork cakes and fermented sausages. Again, I am reminiscent of my days in Hanoi, and thought I should blog about my favorite cafe in the world – Cong Caphe, located at 152D Trieu Viet Vuong, Hanoi. It is not only a coffee house – it doubles up as a bar as well.

The atmosphere is homey and cozy, with a dimly lit interior, Vietnamese-French music softly playing in the background, and the faint smell of cigarettes adds to the Hanoian feel.

Cong has an interior reminiscent of the old days, with brick walls, wooden furnishings, posters of the communist ideology, and the list goes on.

The cafe feels like it was designed to feel like a house, a home. The first floor as the living room, and the second floor as a place to relax in greater peace, to sit on the floor on cushions and work/eat/drink on low tables.

This place is perfect to get some work done on your laptop, read a book, catch up with friends, or just to chill.

Cong’s coffees are wonderful – thick, rich, and perfectly mixed. Their signature is an iced milk coffee, which has hints of cocoa and rum. So delicious and addictive I couldn’t stop drinking. Remember to ask for less condensed milk though – it is really sweet!

I also had a very freshly squeeze pineapple juice one day when I thought I had overdosed on caffeine and milk.

Their smoothies are amazing. I had a passionfruit yoghurt smoothie, which blew my mind away. There was a perfect balance between the yoghurt and the passionfruit, with additional spices I can’t quite put my tongue to.

Out of my five days in Hanoi, I visited Cong four times, and on one day, I visited twice. I love it that much!

My local friends who introduced me to this cafe are just as addicted as I am to this place. Unfortunately for me, I don’t get to visit everyday and sit in there doing work, or just to chill, for hours, unlike them.

I wish I could be studying in Cong right now…

My verdict: 5/5 spoonfuls

Hanoi Social Cafe

15 Aug

It’s not the first time I’ve reminisced about Hanoi since I came back over a month ago. Every time it rains, I think of Hanoi. Every time I ride a bike, I think of Hanoi. Every time I drink coffee, I think of Hanoi. So I decided, it’s about time I blogged about two of my favorite cafes in Hanoi.

As many of you will know, I spent much of my 4 days in Hanoi chilling in cafes, reading a book, listening to the rain, and watching the world go by.

I’ll start off with Hanoi Social Cafe on 6 Ngõ Hội Vũ, Hoan Kiem District. Popular amongst expats as a place to finalize proposals or to have a cuppa before a big meeting. But don’t let its popularity amongst expats turn you away, as this does not mean the cafe lacks local flavor!

At Hanoi Social Cafe, I had my virgin taste of Vietnamese Egg Coffee. This is not a common beverage, but definitely a Hanoi signature. I hear that this is one of the two places that serve it. The other is very inaccessible – faraway and a top a hill.

So…Egg coffee. What it really is is black coffee with a layer of beaten raw egg whites floating above it. Gross you may think, and gross it did smell. Raw eggs!

But I swear it was the most memorable cuppa I’ve had in my life. The beaten egg whites were not just that – they were beaten with condensed milk, making the whole layer thick, creamy, and sweet. Tasted like the insides of roasted  marshmallows. Imagine thick dark black coffee, sweetened with marshmallows!

After I had my first sip, and licked off my creamy egg mustache (yums), I was told by the friendly wait staff that I was supposed to stir the egg into the coffee. So I did, and the coffee became “marshmallow coffee”. I preferred the egg and the coffee separate, though, because I could taste the wholesomeness of each part of the mixture.

Note #1: DO NOT SMELL THE COFFEE BEFORE DRINKING! It will do nothing but turn you off!

Note #2: DO NOT ORDER IT ICED OR COLD! The stench of the raw eggs is worse when it’s cold!

I dare you all to have a go at Vietnamese Egg Coffee!

My verdict: 5/5 spoonfuls

PS: Just go for the coffee, and forget about having food there. Desserts maybe, but not real food.

Will blog about my favorite cafe in the world – Cong Caphe – soon!

Oriole Cafe

13 Apr

Okay Charmaine you really need to get this in your head. TEN DAYS TO FIRST PAPER. Stop going out.

So today I finally met Tilak again after something like…six months. Haven’t been to Oriole in quite awhile, so I thought it should be re-visited, after the pretty good experience the previous time.

The Oriole experience differs between day and night. In the day, it’s a cozy little cafe, albeit noisy, given the crowd. At night, it is dimly lit by candles. Also crowded and noisy. I suppose it’s nice and cozy and good for unwinding, especially because it turns into a bar at night.

I’ll start with pictures from the previous visit…

Can’t remember the name, but it was a salad of baby spinach, beetroot, orange, and nuts.

Spaghetti Prawns  (garlic, chilli, tomato, arugula)

 Frutti di Mare Cartoccio  (linguine, prawns, scallops, snapper, roasted tomato sauce, baked in parchment paper)

Linguine in tomato sauce, baked en papilotte (in a parchment). Everything was good, except for the linguine. I believe it was supposed to be al dente, but it turned out slightly undercooked. The tomato sauce was rich but not overwhelming. The seafood were fresh, and generous. Had something like 3 scallops, 3 prawns, 5 slices of snappers.

Duck Leg Confit  (braised du puy lentils, bacon, currant, broccoli)

Actually, this is the reason why I wanted to blog tonight. This was the worst duck leg confit I’ve ever had in my life. No kidding. What a duck confit is suppose to be is a duck leg cooked slowly in its own fat, to such a level that the meat is practically falling off the bone. The skin is supposed to be crispy, oily, and sinful.

This duck confit was…well, what does it look like? Deep fried duck drumstick. I failed to see how it was cooked in its own fat, and how the meat comes off the bone easily. The meat wasn’t tough, but it was just not correct. And it was extremely dry.

The gravy was interesting, though. Loved the lentils.

Another reason for my re-visit was because I wanted to have one of their wonderful competition coffees again. I’ve been having Starbucks almost everyday that it’s really getting boring. And honestly, Starbucks isn’t all that fantastic. I digress. There are two on the menu: citrus sin, and chili chocolate mocha.

citrus sin   (double ristretto, spiced orange juice, steamed milk)

I still remember how this tasted, even though it was from so long ago. The spiced orange juice leaves quite an impression. Fresh, citrusy, spiced (cinnamon?) orange blends really well with the extremely short shot of espresso.

Chili Chocolate Mocha  (double ristretto, fresh chilli juice, chocolate, steamed milk)

This is quite a remarkable invention. Chili, chocolate, and coffee. My favorite things, all in one. I loved how the chocolate and ristretto do not overpower each other. As for the chili, it is ever so mild that you wouldn’t taste it unless you were trying to. It only comes out in the after taste. Tinge of spice. I used the cinnamon sticks to stir my coffee, so there was a tinge of cinnamon as well. I prefer the Citrus Sin, though.

My verdict: 4/5 spoonfuls. Go there for the coffee, not the food. Might be a good idea to make reservations, though.