Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Feeding the Munchies!

Having stumbled into Highlander on Sunday for lunch, I discovered that they do rather good and reasonably priced set lunch. With nothing priced over $20, you have a choice of an “Scottish-themed” main course and a soup of the day, of which was shrimp bisque on Sunday, and a scoop of ice cream to finish off (and its more than a vanilla, chocolate and strawberry choice but vanilla, chocolate, lemongrass, passion fruit and honey & fig).

I spent most of my lunch half-listening to the conversation at the table and gazing through a glass window at children running through and around a water feature without a care in the world—taking this to the extreme point was a child streaker, but I guess that was kind of funny. That aside, the food was better than I expected. We had the grilled pork chop marinated in thyme and served on roasted apricot, safe and good, beer battered fish and chips, where I liked the hand-cut chips and the Grampian stovies, which is pan-fried herbed beef served with onion cakes and crispy oatcakes, hmmm.. I couldn’t really appreciate this and of course the other Scottish thing that is as well known as its kilts, the national dish, Haggis.

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This was my first experience with Haggis. Ok, it doesn’t sound fancy or looks particularly pretty, but it taste good, and it is so well seasoned with spices that you don’t taste anything foul. Haggis, I liked.

Since I’m rambling about pub-grub-gastropub, there are two other places that I that I like and sometimes I think about their food before their drinks. Whilst we are blessed with plenty of late night eating strips around the city state, good pub grub is often a more welcomed option for instant gratification when the post-drinking munchies hit. So if part of your mission is to be decently fed and to grease up before a long night out, these are two places I like.

Ice Cold Beer
9 Emerald Hill Road
Tel: 6735-9929

As its name suggests, this place offers a wide range of bottled beers. What is perhaps unknown to some is that it does serve up some finger licking good chicken wings and juicy mini burgers served with shoe string fries.

25 Church St.
#01-03 Capital Square
Tel: 6438-2975

Because of its location, this popular post-work hangout has a regular belly dancer to accompany its Middle Eastern food and décor. But really, the most important phase that you need to know here is “lamb chops”. I swear these are one of the yummiest lamb chops I’ve ever had, charred, blackened and very excitingly spiced, it is good. Once you start, you can’t stop, in fact I know of four grown men who polished about 60 chops between them. It is really that good.

Block 3B, The Foundry
#01-11 Clarke Quay
River Valley Road
Tel: 6235 9528

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Finding Wow at Le Papillon

I dine out quite a lot. Thankfully, for the high proportion of my pay check that I plough back into the economy through meals, I usually have good meals. Occasionally, after walking out of a restaurant I feel that I overpaid and the worst case scenario is when I simply feel that I was cheated of my time, money and calories, in those cases I'm usually really pissed and will whinge. But most of the time I’m satisfied, and every once in a while there are moments when the only appropriate reaction I can muster is ‘wow!’ The greatest thing about these ‘wow’ moments is that you never really forget it.


One of those moments happened when I was at Anderson Ho’s restaurant Le Papillon. It was my third visit there, and I was dining with a close friend and fan of Anderson’s who always has a special chef’s menu planned for him. Amongst the seven courses that were planned for the night was a pasta course of prawn oil penne with arugula salad, parmesan and bottaga and it was a showstopper. Not just I, but all four of us around the table at one point or another (probably after about two bites) uttered ‘w-o-w’. It was divine – annoucing its arrival with enticing aromas and depth of flavour that hit many notes and remained well composed. Enchanted, I emailed chef the next day and gushed about it and he very kindly assured me that it was going to be in the next menu and it still remains there today (yay!). Since that day, I’ve become a fan.

My last meal there, the delicious pasta, as I have discovered, currently has evolved and now takes the form of rigatoni with crustacean and seaweed, bottaga, arugula and parmesan. But this time we had a slightly varied form, substituting the bottaga with grilled mentaiko, a hand-carried gift from Japan from Sam to me, and it was still absolutely divine. That was still my favourite dish, but it was also surrounded by other great tasting courses such as its prelude of fresh mud crab salad with tomato gelée and gazpacho espuma appetiser that was had gentle breezy flavours and a good lift from the Tabasco, refined and refreshing. The main courses of skate with lobster emulsion and morels , smoked chicken with onion gratin and braised beef shin were good but I generally prefer appetisers to main courses.

When Le Papillon first opened in 2006, most foodies and culinary critics who had frequented Fig Leaf were excited about the return of Anderson after his ‘sabbatical’ from the culinary scence at SATS. Whilst it opened to positive feedback and reviews, there was a general consensus and I agree, many felt that it had not reached its potential. In addition with many new places, it has it teething problems and a fair share of on and off day, but it is now coming into its form, finding its definitive voice and slowly reaching its potential. At the moment it serves great food and some absolutely brilliant dishes that have developed into signature dishes and found a permanent spot on the menu such as the pesto and feta on watermelon, arugula salad and pedro ximenez reduction, and I think its only going to get better. For me, I feel that in him I have found something that I really relate to in terms of taste. Anderson is grounded in classic French techniques, he understands the local ingredients and he has this wonderful ability of combining flavours that evoke feelings of familiarity and nouvelle in me.

Le Papillon
Red Dot Traffic Building
28 Maxwell Road
Tel: 6327-4177

* See the whole set of photos here.

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