myVillage of Designer Cuisines

Serangoon Garden holds very fond memories for me. Some of the most unforgettable and embarrassing parts of my teenage years were born there. During my secondary school days, one of my closer friends used to stay at Lorong Chuan, which is considered to be within the radius of Serangoon Garden. I remember he moved there to stay with the maternal family after a domestic tragedy.

His new abode was a huge landed property and my friend’s room soon became a base camp for 4 best buddies – Spencer, Leslie, Vincent and Joey. Yes, before Darren and many other names in-between, I was known as Joey back then because of boyband influences. How time flew flies.

If you’d like to see why I have a love-hate relationship with Serangoon Garden, you can have a look at an embarrassing photo here. The skinny pic was taken in my friend’s room at Lorong Chuan. That is the better shot. There are a lot more other photos in the series that made me beg for Alzheimer’s.

Formerly known as Maju Mall, the site has been redeveloped into myVillage with almost half its tenancy taken up by chichi restranteurs. Felt like downtown dining in 'suburban' Singapore with premium quality but mid-range prices. In other words, ker qi-eee, ker pi-eee, ker dua liap *censored* (Hokkien expression for 'fresh, cheap, & chestily satisfying')!

Against that nostalgic backdrop, I’m not sure if you can feel my my wave of emotions when I received a food tasting invitation to sample the yums yums at myVillage, Serangoon Garden. With my 3 secondary school best friends, we used to go to Chomp Chomp (a famous hawker centre there) often to recharge after a mischief and fill up for the next monkey business. So I’m no stranger to the area surrounding it. myVillage is just a minute’s walk from Chomp Chomp, sitting at the intersection of Farleigh Avenue and Maju Avenue. Here’s how to get to myVillage.

That place was emotionally close but I had this strange feeling of distance from it. When I reached the roundabout, saw Chomp Chomp, the bus-stop, the shops, the scenery, it took me a minute to just stand there and breathe before calling my friend who’s nearby and joining me for the sampling session. I’m back here again after all these years. The food I came for better be good for dragging up such melancholy in me!

Frankly, food-blogging is very new to me and I have no idea what to say. I’m not fussy with what I eat so it’s usually just a ‘nice’ or ‘not nice’ opinion from me. I really kowtow (bow) to specialised food bloggers who can write so much about a dish. I don’t quite possess the culinary volcubulary to describe the journey of tastes, but here’re my 3 cents worth about the 5 foodie outlets I had the privilege of sampling at myVillage

Daikokuya Ramen Dining

Whenever it comes to Japanese noodles, my only caloroic expenditure would be on cold buckwheat soba because green or brown noodles served on a bed of ice is very exotic. So I’m not exactly a fan of ramen. That was until my tasting session at Daikokuya. I finally understood why ramen has such a strong following. It’s not all just about the noodle, but the broth as well. At Daikokuya, their soup stocks are made from long hours of boiling to extract the essence of pork and chicken bones. The ‘brewing’ of their chicken stock takes as long as 11 hours while the pork version can go over 12 hours!

Daikokuya means 'God of Wealth' but you definitely don't need to be sitting on a gold hill to afford a meal here. The ramen prices range from $12.80 - S$16.90 and an assortment of side dishes starts from S$3.80.

There’s a very wide offering of ramen styles here so if you want to try more, order the mini ramen bowl (S$8.90 – S$9.50) instead of the regular-sized ones. The variety in style spans from Sapporo, Tokyo, Kyushu, and Kogashi and is determined by the soup’s thickness and added condiments. During the sampling session, I got to try 2 of their hot favourites – Stamina Ramen and Original Miso Ramen. Although the sampling portions were very small, I got an idea of how the 2 bowls will be very appetising.

Stamina Ramen has its noodles made from taro (tapioca) & is loaded with more calories than other ramens, that's why the name 'Stamina'. The ramen is firm to the bite & breezed of a flavour I can't quite place with the soup's subtlety complimenting the noodle beautifully.

The Original Miso Ramen is a classic & many ramen-yas serve it. I don't know much about what makes a good miso ramen but I think the distinguishing factor in Daikokuya's rendition is in the meat & egg condiments. A delicately flavoured vinegar can also be added to the ramen for a sourish character that doesn't overpowers. Oishi neh!

This is the master chef flown in from Japan. His name is Suzuki-something something & he's only been in Singapore a couple of months. So if you're at Daikokuya, don't forget to show him some Singaporean hospitality by shouting 'Kae-dama!'. I'm kidding. Kaedama means an extra serving of ramen. When you've finish your original order of ramen, you can call out kaedama to have another ball of noodles. But remember to leave enough soup in your bowl for the refill!

Artisan Bread by Bakerzin

“Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (Do you want to sleep with me tonight)?” the pastries asked seductively. “Sure,” I replied and picked out 2 of them for a gastronomic ménage à trois on the sweet side.

After the savoury treat of ramen, we were ushered to the new bakery concept by Bakerzin. The dessert connoisseur who brought about a revival in Singaporeans’ love for cakes during the late 90s is going back to basics through the fine traditions of French bakes. Christened Artisan Bread, the outlet at myVillage is the first in Singapore.

With a Euro pitch in style & taste, the breads are freshly baked at the shop & includes such specialties as ciabatta, country, walnut & focaccia.

Apart from breads, the outlet also bakes pastries, sweet & savoury buns, & a range of sandwich loaves. There's also a wide spread of macaroons to choose from. I've never really learnt how to appreciate them but according to someone who loves these bite-size confects, Artisan's macaroons are unique because they have a chewy texture compared the usual crumby biscuit feel.

In addition to the macaroons, we were given a taste of its designer jam - Strawberry Champagne. The jam isn't very sweet, which is nice, & has enough flavour of the berries to leave an echo on the tastebuds. The jams here have specially formulated with fruits not used in your usual supermarket brands. A jar costs S$16.00. Macaroon & jam... my threesome with the sweets.

After the brief introduction to Artisan, we were given a huge bag of breads to bring home to try. By huge, I really mean HUGE. My favourite was this giant sourdough bread. I try to keep a tight curfew on my carb escapades but with this bread, all control broke loose. I've placed a coin (diameter 2.3cm) next to the bread to give you an idea of its size. I finished the whole thing in a day.

Gastronomia by Da Paolo

It’s so hard to resist the cliche exclamation when encountering anything Italian so here it is… “Mama mia!”

From the French influenced bakery, we crossed over to the next culinary neighbour in myVillage, Da Paolo’s Gastronomia. I’ve heard of Da Paolo for quite some time but haven’t tried it yet. My friends have been raving about the restaurant’s high standards and fidelity to fine Italian dining. Since opening it’s first flagship restaurant at Club Street in 1997, its reach has grown to include 2 more restaurant outlets, a pizza bar and bistro, pastry shops and a chain of Gastronomia joints that serve up takeaways of its salivicious menu.

Anything you desire of Italian eats, you can find them at Gastronomia & bring them home. The place is stocked with freshly made starters, pizzas, pastas, & desserts that would make a nice snack, assembled into a proper multiple-course meal, or feed hungry guests at a party. The pizzas here are rectangular although they do have the round ones too. I love the thin crust.

The food all look so delicious and healthy! I really like the Salmon Pizza. The pizza uses smoked salmon, which usually taste like chewing the very salty underside of a rubber slipper, but the version here tastes just right & the fish meat is soft. A slice of pizza costs S$6.50 - S$7.00.

Not to be missed is the wildly popular Da Paolo Tiramisu which is creamy & spongy at all the right doses. The fragrance of liquor is also not lost in Gastronomia's version of this Italian layered dessert, so there is that oomph that seems to be lacking in other Tiramisus I've tasted who traded the alcohol with sugar.

Here with the manageress of the place. She's fresh from Italy (only been in Singapore 2 days when this pic was taken on 24 Mar 11) & really pretty! I missed her name because I was just so caught up by her good looks. She taught us hold to sign delicious in Italy. Poke a finger to your cheek and do a twisting motion. That would make many Italian chefs happy. Apparently, she did that at a hawker centre here & the stallowner brought her toothpicks.

Old Hong Kong Taste

Moving on from the Italiano beauty, we went up the second level of myVillage and stepped into the Old Hong Kong restaurant. I soooooooo like the ambience and decor of the place. You feel the timeless breath of Chinese classical design without the thick, tired sighs of tradition blowing down your back.

A lot of the items in the restaurant have been customised and found nowhere else in the Old Hong Kong Group of eateries. The uniqueness of design lends itself not just to the furnishings and crockery but extends to the menu as well. It’s a pity I only tasted a piece of prawn and 2 pieces of meat before being whisked to the next food outlet. Would’ve been nice to taste a full-course meal here.

As the restaurant is located in Serangoon Garden, floral motifs & butterflies float-fluttered all around on walls, plates & bowls as the design order here. As I was posing the bowl & plate to get this photo, the restaurant's PR personnel immediately adjusted them to the angle she think I should take them at. This goes to show the kind of control they want over their quality. I politely took a shot of her arrangement which aligned the print on the bowl with that of the plate. It's a mess of black lines all over the place. When she wasn't looking, I reoriented the tableware for this shot. Hiaks. I'm a bad boy!

Occupying unit #02-01, a fish tank kitchen welcomes diners to take a peek of the master chefs at work. For beverage, definitely must order the red dates & longan tea. No sugar is used to sweetened the tea & it tastes really great. The red date & longan tea (sometimes added with chrysenthemum, goji berry, dried orange peel & other ingredients to form the Eight Treasures tea) has quite a lot of health benefits which includes waste removal from various bodily systems & nourishing the blood.

Love seafood & durian like me? Here's a perfect combination! The Deep-fried Prawn with Durian Paste & Maltesers is a delicious fusion of the savoury & the sweet balanced out with a refreshing crisp of watermelon.

Flamed with a creative taste. This is the herbalised version of the local favourite sweet & sour pork ribs. But instead, Old Hong Kong concocted a new version with Jap-bred black hog & angelica root. Called Flaming Kurobuta Pork with Danggui Sauce, the dish impresses with juicy & tender cuts of meat fragranced by a delicate herbal note.

Chinta Manis Peranakan Patisserie

Our last stop was dessert at the Chinta Manis, which serves up delectable and extensive range of hand-made Nonya kuehs, drinks, Western cakes and savoury snacks. Chinta Manis means ‘Sweet Love’ in Malay and draws its inspiration from the rich pastry traditions of the Peranakans. There’s a taste of culture in every bite!

Here with Marc Dass, the pastry chain's Commercial Manager. Do you recognise him? He's appeared in Discovery Channel's 5 Takes travel series! He's real friendly, articulate & dashing in person but sorry people, this piece of dessert is already off the shelf. The piece of unappetising blue next to him is still available though. Any takers? Heh. Check out Marc's 5 Takes vid below...

Parked at unit B1-K05, Chinta Manis is hard to miss. Just look for the stall that decors itself with the distinctively coloured & intricately patterned wares used to store food in traditional Peranakan households. The Peranakan heritage reaches as far back as the 1500s from the inter-marriages between Chinese & Malays in Malaysia & Indonesia. Their offsprings are called Straits-born Chinese or Peranakans. Their union resulted in the exciting tastes of Peranakan cuisine which combined the best of both Southern Chinese & Malay culinary heritage.

Chendol on the go. On top of traditional Nonya keuhs such as ondeh ondeh, pulut seri kaya, pulut inti, etc, Chinta Manis innovated with new ingredients & methodology to create new taste traditions. The Chendol Agar Agar pictured here is one of their many unconventional kueh offerings which included Chocolate Ondeh Ondeh & Durian Salat.

Made with 55% dark chocolate, the Chocolate Ecstacy cake brings on a sensation as the name suggests. The thick layer of chocolate was deliciously smooth with just the right amount of sweetness for the aroma of rich cocoa to seep through. Prices range from S$23.80 (6 inches) to S$40 (9 inches).

Our food sampling trail ended with Chinta Manis and by then, my tongue was all over the place since we had Japanese, French, Italian, Hong Kong and Peranakan. That’s the great attraction of mid-range fine dining at myVilage, the tastes of the ‘world’ are all brought together in a compact 3 level complex. The only caution is not to let the appetite be as greedy as the eyes. In other words, the food all look good but space out the dining experience to try a different taste each time.

Although the session was kinda rushed and reviewing 5 radically different eateries at one go is very daunting, I’m glad I came and saw how a familiar acquaintance of my memory is reinventing itself to become the Holland Village of the North-East. And myVillage sits right at the crossroad of this rejuvenation to make Serangoon Garden one of the best food districts in Singapore!

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