Artisan Boulangerie Co. (Killiney)

Official Website: http://artisanbakery.com.sg; Facebook
Address: 
#01-01, 118 Killiney Road, Singapore 239555 [beside Real Food Killiney Outlet]
Opening Hours:  Daily from 8am – 10pm
Tel: +65 6444 8130
Email: info@artisanbakery.com.sg
Budget: $10 – $20
Recommendations: Sandwiches and Croissant (Menu)

ImagePortobello Mushroom & Feta Sandwich, paired with Caffè Latte

I first read about Artisan Boulangerie Co. (Killiney) (“ABC”) when I was looking for an eatery to chill out after my yoga session at Sadhana Sanctuary. After some research, I chanced upon a blog documenting this new kid in the block, and therefore decided to give it a shot.

Location and Service 

ImageExterior of ABC

Navigating towards ABC (Killiney) was a breeze as it is located next to Real Food Grocer (Killiney) and in the vicinity of Freshly Baked, AOI Sushi and Marutama Ramen. Even before entering the eatery, I was pleasantly surprised by the warm hospitality of the service crew. On my first visit, the service crew specially came down the flight of stairs to assist a wheelchair-bound patron up the steps. On both of my visits, the service crew would open the glass door for me, and greeting me with a smile. As my first visit was in mid October when the bakery was still new, the bakery seemed understaffed (about 4-5 service crew and perhaps it was a weekday late morning). However, on my second visit, the bakery was visibly more adequately staffed with about 4 – 5 counter staff and another 4 – 5 servers (on a weekend early afternoon). Most of the servers were fairly young but looked reasonably competent.

Food

1. Croissants

The croissants at ABC are good – but how good are they? According to DanielFoodDiary, ABC perhaps serves the best croissants in Singapore, on par with Tiong Bahru Bakery, Paul’s and Maison Kayser. Lured by Daniel’s post, I packed one for myself home and toasted it before tasting.

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Pain au Chocolat ($3.00)

The Pain au Chocolat ($3.00) had an airy interior and its crust fell apart into paper thin flakes upon the first bite, so be prepared to mess up your table. As for the chocolate filling, although it was fairly generous, I would have liked more of it, since I am a great sucker for chocolate. Overall, I would think the croissant was above average, better than Tiong Bahru Bakery but not mind-blowing (the ones I had in Europe were still better, since they were fresh from the oven).

2. Traditional Baguettes or Baguettes de tradition

Recently, a blogger has expressed some doubt over whether Chef Eran Mayer won the Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris, which ranks the best traditional baguettes in Paris (and probably France). After some due diligence, my search tallies with that of my learned fellow blogger: Chef Eran Mayer was placed 4th place in 2009, and ranked 8th in 2012.

But what’s so great about this competition? As a background, Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris is one of the most prestigious competitions in Paris and the winner gets to win the prize of 4,000 euros and the honour of baking for the French President. In this annual contest organised by the mayor of Paris, more than 160 bakeries (there are approximately 1,200 boulangeries in Paris) compete for the unparalleled honour of winning the title of ‘President’s Baker’, by baking the best traditional baguette, the cultural symbol par excellence of French life.

Traditional baguette or baguettes de tradition, means bread that must be “mixed, kneaded, leavened and baked on premises, without ever being frozen.” They must be free of additives, and can contain only wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. In fact, these criteria were required by a French law passed in 1993, and Singaporeans would be surprised at the level of importance placed by the French on this seemingly simple yet highly regarded pastry.

For myself, I did try some of the samples placed at the counter, but they were cold and rock hard after being placed at the counter since early morning. A little too much for my fragile teeth I guess. That said, it would do justice if I got to sample their freshly baked loaves, since it is no mean feat to be placed on the top list of a nationwide contest.

3. Sandwiches

ImagePortobello Mushroom & Feta Sandwich ($9.80)

On my first visit, the friendly service crew recommended the Portobello Mushroom and Feta Sandwich, which comes with a huge serving of portobello mushrooms, capsicum, caramelised onions, alfalfa sprouts and sauced with tomato pesto and feta. The sandwich was fairly decent in my honest opinion, though I thought that the freshly toasted bread at Nassim Hill Bakery pleased me much more. Moreover, the serving was pretty small for lunch and I would have liked it to be warmer. Nevertheless, I thought that the ambience and location pretty much made it a positive overall experience, and decided to come back for more.

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Eggs Benedict (with Brioche)

On my second visit, I was fortunate to sample the Brunch Menu, which was only available on weekends. As you would have known, I ordered the Eggs Benedict (though strictly speaking it is Eggs Royale, since it came with smoked salmon instead of ham), because I am a sucker for eggs as well. Just by looking at the picture, you would know that this is a winner.

The eggs are poached perfectly and the golden yellow yolk ooze out with such gusto, you just want to have more. I absolutely love the smoked salmon, which was sufficiently seasoned but still tender smooth and retained the sweetness of salmon. But the one thing that ruled them all, was the brioche. It was slightly sweet, tender soft with a light airy texture that I could just eat it on its own. Overall, the Eggs Benedict at ABC, I would say, is comparable to the best Eggs Benedict in Singapore (i.e. Nassim Hill Bakery).

4. Coffee

ImageCaffè Latte

I’ve tried both the brewed (Caffè Latte; $6.80) and iced coffee (Iced Mocha, $7.80) at ABC on both of my visits.  The coffee beans are from Toby’s Estate and you would probably not go wrong with them. Although they are not exceptionally outstanding, the coffee art is aesthetically appealing and perfect for food photographers or Instagrammers.

Verdict

ImageWives of Japanese expatriates enjoying their morning brekkie

Urban legend has it that the Japanese are the ultimate connoisseurs of food. Therefore, if you see Japanese wives enjoying their morning or afternoon tea in a local eatery, it must be testament for the food served. ABC is one such example. On weekends though, expect to dine outdoors as the interior space is mostly likely filled at each table. If you do grab a seat, it’s a nice place to chill out and catch up with your friends. The food is pretty much tasty and the soothing ambience is a winner for me. I should be back real soon (tarts and eclairs here I come).

Verdict: 3.83 / 5 Croissants 

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Hualien Part II: Itinerary (Day 6)

Itinerary in a Nutshell:
1. Morning: Sunrise at Chixing Tan(七星潭), check-in to Hualien 11 and head to Taroko Gorge(太鲁阁)
2. Afternoon: Taroko Gorge Tour and City Centre Exploration
3. Evening: Gongzheng Street Baozi(公正街包子)and Indigenous Cultural Park

Pro-Tip: Pick up the Taroko Gorge and Food Trail Maps from your minsu or Hotel!

DAY 6: TAROKO GORGE AND HUALIEN CITY CENTRE

1. Morning

ImageWaiting for sunrise at Seven Stars Lake (Qixin Tan) at 5am (in summer)

Waking up early to catch the sunrise at Qixing Tan is a must for any romance escapade. Hotel Bayview provides a spectacular view and convenient location for this activity. The good people at Hotel Bayview also provide the information of sunrise for the next day, so do check with them for more information. If you are lucky enough to book the Seaview rooms, you can even laze in bed and enjoy the splendid view from the comfort of your cosy bed.

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To be honest, the photos do not do justice. We would highly recommend you to embrace the sight and enjoy your company, instead of frantically taking photos like us. Not recommended for romantic escapades.

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As the sun gradually rises to the azure skies of Hualien, we then rushed back to the Hotel for our complimentary breakfast (7.00 – 9.00am; international buffet spread), since we needed to check in to Hualien 11 for our Taroko Gorge tour. You can also book the Taxi tour at Hotel Bayview, of which the tours range from NT2500-3000, with friendly and knowledgeable drivers. We also have to thank the Shuttle Service driver at Hotel Bayview for kindly giving us a lift to Hualien 11, even though we only spent one night there. The kind people at Hotel Bayview really go out of their way to render warm, hospitable and first-class service. I would definitely be back!

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 Entrance of Taroko Gorge National Park

At about 8.45am, our friendly driver, Leo(刘正崇)(Tel: 0937-947845) (full day tour approx NT2200 for 2-4 pax.), came to fetch us at Hualien 11 for the Taroko Tour. He’s really friendly and we felt really bad not taking a photo with him, because he’s really nice! He also recommended going to 清水断崖 (translated as Clear Waters Deathly Cliffs), a must-go tourist attraction for Chinese tourists (apparently some Weibo/blog made it famous among the mainland Chinese tourists). It costs about another NT1000, which we thought was not worth the money nor the time (another 2 hour drive to and fro).

If you’re on a budget, you may also opt for the Taroko Shuttle Bus Tours (about NT600-900) instead of our Taxi Tour. We heard from our friend that the Shuttle Bus Tour only stops at 2 locations, but please do check out the latest information at their official website.

Official Website: http://www.taroko.gov.tw/English/
Maps and Brochures: http://www.taroko.gov.tw/English/?mm=3&sm=1&page=1#up
[Both Hualien 11 and our driver Leo have a few brochures so you need not print them out!]

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ImageSha-ka-dang Road Tunnel 砂卡礑隧道(beside Sha-ka-dang Trail 砂卡礑步道

Taroko Gorge is all about trekking and walking. Wear comfortable walking shoes to enjoy the scenic views and marvel at the magnificence of Mother Nature. Leo will bring you to each stop and tell you what time to come back and etc. All that walking is essential for that binging at night!

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The iconic Taroko Bridge 

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This was one of the attractions, though we didn’t know what was so special about it – just a few stalls selling souvenirs and ornaments.

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ImageTaroko Dangerous 

Image慈母桥

So why is Cimu Bridge 慈母桥 so named? Cimu Bridge was built to commemorate the late President Chiang Zhongzheng’s mother and it is rumoured that a number of workers have sacrificed themselves in the construction of this bridge. That said, this bridge bears deep meaning and we took the opportunity to take a few artistic shots.

ImagePicture-in-a-picture Inception: Artistic shot of London Girl taking a shot of the bridge

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ImageSoup that came with the Set Meal

ImageBamboo Rice Set Meal 

As advised by Rubbish Eat Rubbish Grow, lunch options at Taroko Gorge is pricey and average at best. However, since Leo brought us to his old friend’s eatery (where he eats for free), we feel awkward not to oblige. We would say the meal was acceptable but a little oily. We spent about NT250 for 2 pax.

ImageBraised Beancurd (Extra Dish)

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Cured Pork and Taiwanese Sausages

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Bamboo Glutinous Rice

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After lunch was more walking for us. We first went to Lushui Trail and then headed to the Theatre which showcases the award winning film documenting the lifestyle habits of the indigenous Taroko tribe. And indeed, it was a great experience and a good time for us to escape the inclement weather!

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ImageRainy weather = time to head back to City Centre

As rain drops began to fall on our pretty faces, our day tour ended early as we were not heading to Qixing Tan or Qingshui Cliffs. Hence, we headed back to the City Centre at about 4pm and lazed around for some shopping / food adventures.

Hui-lan Shu Dao/Organic Yam (洄澜薯道)
Location: No. 11, Zhōnghua Rd, Hualien City (花蓮市中华路11號)
TE了: 03-8338899
Price: NT$50 per ice cream cone, other souvenirs range from NT20 (sold singly) to NT300 (gift boxes)

ImageEntrance of Hui-lan Shu Dao (洄澜薯道)

Incidentally, we chanced upon a shop with many students queuing up for ice-cream and since it was a humid afternoon, we decided to grab one as well (actually it was fatsgboy who initiated because I really have a sweet tooth). After reading up the reviews and posters, we realised that 洄澜薯道 is a household brand which sells a variety of products manufactured from organic yam (the local specialty).

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The much-coveted Organic Yam Ice Cream

ImageTaiwanese School girl enjoying her dose of Organic indulgence

At NT50, this huge cone of Organic Yam Ice-Cream is not sinful at low. Marketed as low sugar and calorie with high calcium, we instantly forgot all our weariness from walking the whole day in Taroko and was prepared to conquer the Golden Triangle of Hualien City Centre.

(N.B.: we must however caution you to visit this particular store instead of another outlet located at another side of the street, because the service here (the store with the ice cream machine) was much more friendlier. the staff at the other store was a little impatient and their courier service messed up, so we couldn’t send our package to our Wwoof host in Japan on time. That said, their ice cream is really good!)

At the heart of Hualien City is the Golden Triangle Commercial Circle (金三角商圈), which comprises the main Zhongzheng Road(中正路), Zhongshan Road(中山路)and Zhonghua Road(中华路). If you have noticed, many roads in Taiwan are named after the late Founding Father of Modern China Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan) and the late President Chiang Kai-shek (Chiang Zhongzheng). So do not be confused if you see the same road name in another city!

Justice Street Buns (公正街包子)
Location: No. 199-2, Zhōngshān Rd, Hualien City (花蓮市中山路199-2號)
Opening hours: 24 hours
Price: NT$5 per xiao long bao; NT$30 per basket of steamed dumplings/wantons; NT$3 per boiled dumpling

Tai Kee Wonton (戴記扁食)
Location: No. 120, Zhōnghuá Rd, Hualien City (花蓮市中華路120號)
Opening hours: 0700 hours to 0030 hours
Food: Wonton
Price: NT$60 for 10 dumplings

ImageGongzheng Street Pau-zi(公正包子店), beside Dai Ji Wanton(戴记扁食)

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The Famous Gongzheng Street Pau-zi(公正包子店)

Gongzheng Street Pau-zi(公正包子店)is a must-visit if you’re heading to Hualien City Centre. We even bumped into a few young Singaporeans and they highly recommended the Xiaolong Bao and the Wantons/Dumplings.

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公正 Xiaolong Bao (小笼包) (2 x left) and Wantons (扁食) (8 x right)

Singaporeans familiar with the usual Xiaolong Bao (think Din Tai Fung or Kao Ji) will be surprised to see their XLBs in the traditional Pau format. YES, these are the Xiaolong Baos in Hualien. The pork filling is extremely tender and smooth, just like the ones we had at Kao-Ji, though the pau skin is thicker here and more akin to the charsiew bao or Da Bao we have in Singapore. We were afraid that we couldn’t finish them all since we had ice cream prior to this, but the Taiwanese couple sharing the table with us finished about twice the amount as us. Amazing!

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ImageClose up at the Wantons

ImageUnknown Soupy Gelatin 

We were so full, we wanted so much to try Dai Ji Wantons(戴记扁食)but didn’t have space to :(

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ImageHualien Papaya milk

Hualien Indigenous Cultural Park (石藝大街)
Website: http://tour-hualien.hl.gov.tw/Portal/Content.aspx?lang=0&p=005040001&u=Intro&area=3&id=65
Location: No. 326, Guangdong Street, Hualien City (花蓮縣花蓮市廣東街326號)
Tel: 03-8353730
Opening hours: 1400 – 2230

ImagePerformance at the Hualien Indigenous Cultural Park (石藝大街)

After so much binging, we then headed to the Hualien Indigenous Cultural Park which was about 15min walk from the Golden Triangle Commercial Circle. Here, you can find various shops selling all kinds of ornaments and souvenirs, and watch a complimentary outdoor performance lasting for about 1 hour. The male performers are clad in traditional indigenous tribe costumes, so many of them are in fact half-naked (hear the screams of females). And the good thing is, they have nice figures too haha.

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There are a few segments and the finale is a bamboo stick dance where the performers invite some of the audience to join them for the dance. It’s very fun and they accept all volunteers!

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And at the end of everything, you can even take photos with your favourite dancers! They are very friendly and you can catch a short chat with them. And then we headed back to our minsu with Leo fetching us back to home sweet home!

Pls continue on to Hualien Part II: Itinerary (Day 7) (upcoming)

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Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru Singapore (漁師寿司); 活けいけ丸 シンガポール

Official Website: Facebook
Address:
177 River Valley Road B1-48 Liang Court Singapore 179030 (Map[Near Medi-ya]
Opening Hours: 11.00am – 9.50pm
Tel: 63371022
Budget: $15 – $25
Recommendations: Udon with Sushi Set, Salmon Sushi
ImageNestled in the basement of Liang Court and rubbing shoulders with other Japanese heavy-weights such as Marutama Ramen and Tampopo, one would expect Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru to possess some tricks up its sleeve to remain in the competition for so long. Barely 2 years old, the secret to Ryoshi’s success is “value-for-money“. As a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, it serves affordable sushi and udon at wallet-friendly prices, if you compare the quality that you’re getting with the prices paid.

While waiting for our seats (about 10-15min on a weeknight), we had a glimpse at the plethora of choices and were spoilt for choice. We were told by the manager that the wide variety of fishes was due to the fact that the owners were seafood suppliers themselves, and therefore able to provide the fresh stock at such competitive prices. In addition, shipment arrives on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so you know when to plan your visit.

ImageTempura Udon with Sushi Set ($16.40++)

3 out of 4 hungry boys opted for the Tempura Udon Sushi Set, as the piping hot ebi caught our attention while waiting for our seats. Moreover, what is a visit to a sushi restaurant without sushi? Therefore, having tempura, udon and a sushi set was the ideal choice for us. We unanimously agreed that the soup base for the udon was clear, refreshing and not too salty for our liking. The noodles tasted a little like chinese flat noodles and were cooked a little softer than al dente. We have no complaints thought, as we slurped them down before Mr Mushroom’s order arrived.

ImageThe Sushi Platter (additional $6.80 to any Udon Set)

The Sushi platter comprises 7 types of sushi (from left to right), including Maguro (Tuna), Fresh Squid, Salmon, Kohada (Gizzard Shad), Mushi Ebi (Shrimp), Inari Sushi (Marinated Sushi Rice in Sweetened Tofu pouch) and finally Tamago (Egg). The fresh squid was both succulent and chewy, while the Kohada was lightly vinegared and mildly refreshing. Our favourite and highlight of the dinner was the salmon nigiri sushi, which left a sweet aftertaste in our palette. It was so nice, Muscle Man even went for a second serving of salmon sushi from the conveyor belt.

ImageOther Udon Choices: also check out the Japanese style English spelling for Salmon.

ImageTempura: Ebi, Lady’s Finger and Brinjal

The Tempura does not disappoint: it was served piping hot and the prawn remained intact as you chew into the batter (Shrimps that were below average freshness would usually fall apart from its batter casing). And there is no doubt that we just love fried food :)

ImageMixed Sushi Set

Mr Mushroom is a man with great ambitions and expectations: when we made our order on the iPad, he couldn’t make up his mind and after 10 gruelling minutes, he chose the Mixed Sushi Set, of which looked so fanciful, he couldn’t bear to eat it. And when he decided to start, he realised there was Nattō, of which he was averse to. Well, we can only say that he enjoyed it after all. Exotic choice indeed.

ImageFried Squids

Mr Mushroom also ordered the Fried Squids and it was pretty decent as well. If you are not driving, this goes really well with beer.

Verdict

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A wise man once said that if you spot Japanese at any restaurant, you probably would not go wrong. Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru is probably one of them. If you’re expecting mid to high end sushi or sashimi, we think that you might have a more enjoyable experience at Chikuwa Tei. However, if you’re looking for fuss-free and affordable sushi, look no further. We however note that they have a unique method of calculating the prices, i.e. by adding coloured plates to your table, instead of merely calculating the prices with the electronic system. One HGW commentator has remarked that he was overcharged with this system, so do beware and check your bill before paying.

Rating: 3.69 / 5 Sushi

P.S. The owners of Ryoshi also own another restaurant located at Robertson Quay, called Ginza Kuroson Singapore. In addition, Ryoshi’s name card is shaped like a sushi, so do pick up one as you pay the tab!