From the West to the East, we bring to you comfort food for the of pizza and sushi today! From Spizza-Mercato, a pizza joint located in the newly renovated Capitol Piazza, to Maki-san, with three outlets to date at the Arcade, 112 Katong and The Cathay, depending what’s your preference for taste today, there’ll be something that we can offer – that’s for sure!
by Rin Yeo
Talk about pizza and pizza delivery, and we are sure Spizza will come to mind for some of you. Spizza Mercato, which is by the same company behind Spizza (hence the name, duh!), is a new concept which introduces the traditional dine-in, take-away, and self-collection as well as an additional retail section – all in a single outlet! Located in the spanking new Capitol Piazza, it is the perfect choice to go to if you are one who loves the option to personalise your own pizza the way you want it, or if you would like loads of variety to choose from that aren’t the norm!
Once seated, it is hard to not notice that every single table has a condiments tray each, furnished with Parmesan cheese powder, chilli flakes, Tobasco sauce, and a unique option – olive oil, all sitting neatly and filled up to the brim. While most establishments have salt and pepper readily available at every table and the rest of the seasonings at a self-service counter, the concept of having well-stocked garnishes at each table mean that diners are able to add what they like to their dishes without the need to bother the waiting staff again and again for what they need.
To start our meal proper, we ordered two recommended appetizers on the menu – the calamari rings as well as chicken wings (pollo).
Served with a spicy ‘pizzaiolo’ dip, which is a light tomato-based sauce, the calamari had a nice crunch and was crispy, with no foul taste of grease. We find the sauce not too spicy and it enhances the taste of the sweet calamari flesh instead of overpowering it. To add some zest to this dish, a wedge of lemon is provided as well, and the tangy and sweetness will bound to make you reach out for more. Overall, this was a perfect appetizer with a fine marriage between the crispy calamari and the dip. However, do eat it right off the bat when it is piping hot as it may get a little soggy if you hesitate!
Next, we had the Pollo, or otherwise more commonly known as – chicken wings. Crisp on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, the chopped herbs on the chicken wings gave an added extra flavour of greens to the chicken, and at the same time, so did the lightly-spiced batter. On its own, the wings were tasty even without adding any other additional sauces, however if you prefer to have them with sauces, there is the choice between two dips — arrabiata and honey sauce.
For a sweeter touch to the chicken wings, the honey sauce is a great accompaniment, as it isn’t artificial sugared water nor is it too sweet. When drenched over the wings, it seeps into the batter well enough such that you get the flavours to coat it in entirety through and through.
However, if the honey dip does not call out to you, the arrabbiata dip might just be the choice instead. Though similar in looks to the dip that was given with our calamari, this is extremely different in taste as it has more garlic in it and thus, makes it stronger in terms of taste and much more flavourful.
There are two types of bases available for gnocchis served here – that is lighter and with tomato sauce as it’s base and another that is heavier as cream is used instead. We chose the latter, in which the gnocchi is accompanied with gorgonzola (veined blue cheese) and cooked ham. You would expect the gorgonzola to have a pungent smell to it, as it is a common perception that blue cheese has a strong odour to it but here in this dish, it does not smell foul and instead adds a good food profile of cheese to the cream sauce. While initially we expected the cream sauce to be heavy and possibly overwhelming after a few mouthfuls, we were pleasantly surprised that it maintains a right amount of creaminess and it is not too heavy on the palate. Mixed with the gnocchi that is slightly chewy and fluffy, the flavours come together into a great medley. And oh, the slightly grilled cheese powder that sits atop of this when served deserves a mention too, as it provided a slightly crusty feel to the dish.
Moving onto the pizzas, here at Spizza Mercato, they take pride in having pizzas that are specially curated for the month – flavours that may or may not be on the menu. We decided to give the monthly pizza a shot, owing to the fact that an interesting ingredient was used here – the lamb chipolata sausage. Topped with generous amounts of tomato, mozzarella cheese, olives, onions, chilli and parsley, the crust is thin and yet strong enough to hold all the toppings without tearing apart. Given how lamb has the renown smell profile of being gamey, this was nicely spiced and cut thinly, which masked the scent up perfectly while at the same time made the sausage crispy. Together with the rest of the ingredients, you get a combination of spiciness from the onions and chilli, saltiness from the olives and fragrance from the chipolata which gives you an excellent spectrum of flavours all within one single pizza!
At Spizza Mercato, the menu is extensive in terms of the types of pizza offered, and each pizza comes with a unique sounding ladies’ name in addition to having unique toppings. As such, for our next choice for pizza, we went for Tara – a pizza with toppings that sounded more like a breakfast set instead!
Similar to what you get for a big breakfast spread, Tara is topped with greens such as tomato, and has the other commons like mozzarella, egg, bacon and button mushroom. With a crust slightly chewier than the previous pizza, we could see why this was so as the ingredients used here were much more moist as compared to the former, which meant that the juices may seep through and cause the crust to crack easily should it become thinner. We were pretty delighted that the egg was cooked to a nice crisp for the whites, while the yolk was runny as when it oozed out, provided a secondary level in terms of taste to the tomato based sauce. Our recommendation of when to have this? Pretty much fit for a brunch item, as it has everything for a breakfast set – plus on a pizza crust no less!
Spizza Mercato serves up some unique coolers here – take for instance the Spizza Signature cooler, a fizzy drink flavoured with mango and passionfruit bits, and the second drink being a lychee quencher, made with seedless lychee meat and soda. When served, we felt that it was way to sweet from how we could smell the syrup added, however on hindsight, after the savoury pizza, the sweetness does balance out the taste perfectly. The signature cooler had a zingy and tangy taste to it, with bits of the actual passionfruit present in the drink adding a fresh touch and providing some exercise for the mouth in terms of chewing. The lychee quencher on the other hand was a bit too sweet, and if possible, perhaps something sourish in nature added to it could balance out the sweetness in general would make it most more awesome instead.
Last but not least, no meal would be complete without desserts. Hence, we went for a classic, and a classic with the twist as well.
For the classic, we decided try out the tiramisu cake, a common dessert which you can find all over Singapore. In our opinion, this is probably one of the better tiramisu offered, as the tiramisu is layered perfectly with the sponge cake soaked fully in liqueur instead of it just being on the first layer or being barely discernible in the dessert. This is pretty evident on the very first bite, and on every subsequent bite as well, as what fills your entire mouth is the fragrance of the sweet liqueur. Chocolate sauce surrounds the tiramisu too, instead of being poured over it, and this ensures that the tiramisu is not soaked in the richness and thereafter numbing your tastebuds with only chocolate.
As for the classic with the twist which we find to be pretty unique, the Orange créme brûlée is a rare find as you mostly get only the simple créme brûlée available on the menu only. Here, what is served is a custard with a natural orange-infused flavour – taste akin to that of marmalade. The caramelised sugar crust on top is thin and brittle, and balances well with the creamy pudding, as it doesn’t come across as too sweet or stick-jaw.
The wait staff here are pretty friendly and attentive, responding promptly to diner’s request almost immediately with no waiting time in-between. We noticed how each and every group of diners entering were greeted with a warm welcome and a smile, and each were asked if there was a preference they would like to be seated at. In addition to that, our mains were only served after we finished the appetisers, which is great as it ensures that every dish is eaten warm.
The ambience of the place is relatively unique and inviting, with decorations such as hanging plants and soft lights giving the restaurant a calm and inviting feel, and projecting a posh feel that would make any meal here a romantic affair no less. With seats around the fountain too, it is also a relaxing option as you enjoy the sounds of the water as you watch the movements during the meal.
The newly renovated Capitol Piazza may give the impression that any thing here would be expensive but, that is not true as there are weekday specials available here at Spizza Mercato, which includes breakfast deals and even lunches too. For students, there are special discounts from Monday – Thursdays as well. As majority of these deals are available Monday – Thursday/Friday only, should you decide to visit the place on a weekend, the food off the normal menu is not extremely expensive either, with prices ranging from $17 to $21 for a medium pizza and with 8 slices per medium pizza , this could be shared between 2 – 3 people, thus making it value-for-money.
13 Stamford Road
Dine-in and Take Away Operating Hours: 10.30am to 10.30pm daily
by Rin Yeo
Opened since 2012, Maki-San is Singapore’s first ever place that lets you customise your own sushi and salads. With 3 outlets located across Singapore in the short span of 3 years, its popularity is undisputed – with countless combinations to customise your maki from, there is simply nothing simple about this sushi! In addition to that, you can have the option to dine there or take-away as well, and what’s more – ordering isn’t just via the counter, thus making this unique food concept and dining experience a special experience worth coming back for!
The other 2 methods available would be be to order via the website, or via the mobile app. The former gives you the option to either get a delivery to where you are located, or pickup at any of the 3 outlets which you would like to do so at, while the latter only provides the option for pickup. However, benefits of the latter option is that you get 20% off your orders during this introductory offer!
To order, we decided to use the Maki-San preorder app that is available on both the Apple App store and Google Play store. This helped us to save time as we were able to order in advance with the app and have it ready when we went to the store at The Cathay. Payment is done via Paypal, which makes it fuss-free, and even the pick-up time is given once you’ve ordered. This facilitates easy pick-up as there would be no waiting time involved although, alternatively, you could order on the website if you wish, though there is no 20% discount if you do so.
We chose 2 snacks to go along with our meal, which includes:
The light batter that coats the tempura enoki mushroom was of a good consistency, resulting in a pack that was was chocked full of flavours – crunchy, fresh and juicy, especially for the bigger portions of it where you can taste the mushrooms, you get to enjoy the sweetness of it, minus the greasiness from the batter as which you might only taste from those sold elsewhere. Paired with a smoky cheddar dip, the flavours were simply excellent to say the least. The calamari on the other hand, had a thicker batter, which was complimented well with the Japanese mayonnaise more due to the sauce’s thicker consistency.
For Little San, you can have the choice of 1 wrap, 1 rice, 3 essentials, 1 sprinkle and 1 house sauce, and for just an additional of $2, which will upgrade you to Mega San, you can get one premium ingredient such as salmon sashimi or tempura soft-shell crab among others and 2 additional essentials. Other than the common seaweed and white rice, there are plenty of options and unique essentials such as, egg or soy wrap, ebiko (prawn roe), and crunchy jellyfish, and apart from essentials, there is a wide array of sauces to choose from as well such as, chilli crab and their monthly special sauces (which for the month of October, was called Bloody Chilli).
I decided to design my own maki, going with the usual nori wrap with brown rice for a healthier choice, avocado, sweet corn and tuna mayo. For the sprinkle, I chose tempura crunch and chilli crab sauce, as other than the sweet corn, there was basically no texture for my maki. It is a unique combination, and one that was satisfying to the palate to me, as the ingredients used were fresh and the rice-ingredients proportion was just right. More than the sushi itself though, I was impressed by the pretty packaging from Maki-san, which apparently you can recycle to make pencil boxes or even other craft ideas!
Of course, back to the food, if you are not feeling adventurous to want to create your own sushi, there is also the option for you to choose from their house specials, and this isn’t solely limited to their maki rolls but also extends to their salads. Naturally, we had to try their combinations, of which we did just so with the Quack Quack.
We usually imagine salads to be boring, filled with vegetables and only for “healthy people” or the weight conscious. At Maki-San, things take a very different beat.
This above is Quack Quack, Maki-San’s very own signature house salad. With ingredients such as sweet potato glass noodles as the base, smoked duck slices, shredded cucumber, carrots, sweet corns, half a boiled egg and nori flakes, the ingredients were very fresh, and the succulent smoked duck was complimented nicely by the tasty sesame sauce which you can ask to be tossed together with the salad, or served separately. Although the glass noodles were tasteless as they are, when mixed with the sesame sauce and the rest of the ingredients, these clings onto the strands of the noodles nicely and makes it a fresh, clean salad that does not sit too heavily in the stomach campus.
However, if you decide, well, I just want the same old greens and would like to create your own salad, that option is also available! Pictured above is the Mega San salad, which is customized with grilled unagi (eel), roasted baby potatoes, caramelized sweet potato, roasted pumpkins and pine nuts. Served on the side, is a clear yuzu honey vinaigrette that is light and refreshing to the palette.
Depending on your preferences, Maki-san offers three distinct types of sauces — light and watery sauces such as extra virgin oil and ponzu (Japanese mixed citrus) , creamy sauces such as wasabi mayo and spicy mayo, and heavy sauces such as Japanese curry and Chimichurri or even miso. As such, with so many possible permutations for your customization options, it is definitely a distinctive personalized experience at Maki-San, minus the need for you to get hands-on!
Maki-san has an interesting concept for its interior – fun murals of the different types of sushi and colours add to the vibrant ambience of the restaurant, including 3D effects from the pop-out sushi. We visited The Cathay, which is a prime hangout space for students and young adults who work near the area and thus, it is a good option for lunch time. If you’re in a rush or if the place is packed, you could even take-away and eat near the seats available at the fountain at The Cathay! Alternatively, there are two other outlets, located in 112 Katong (#B1-19) and at The Arcade (#01-12) respectively.
Prices have gone up slightly from when they first opened in 2012, although it is still within reasonable range, given how you can have everything you like altogether in a single sushi or salad, and not having to eat countless ready-to-eat ones available from the supermarket or mix and match food to satisfy your craving. Besides the 20% offered for those who order through the phone app, students near The Cathay need not fret too, as student deals are ongoing (at least for now.)
2 Handy Road
Opening hours: 11.30am – 9.30pm
We are giving away 5 x large pizza (12″) courtesy of Spizza!
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