Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I Survived Operation Wedding.

pina colada espuma
I can’t remember ever smiling so much over one weekend! My favourite couple got married and being part of their celebration, ceremony and the traditions was really magical. From us girls ‘extorting money’ from the groom and his band of brothers, the serving of tea to the solemnization of their marriage in the church sanctuary; the wedding was beautiful, and it was a great and funny love story of two great friends.

Cooking for the party on the other hand was a real LABOUR of love. I love these two to bits, but I had to resist screaming and kicking them for changing the guest list every other week, and to my horror, they did so again 45 minutes to the dinner party, so the already burgeoning guest list extended itself again. Nonetheless, we had enough the feed the hungry, unfortunately I forgot my camera and so asked a friend to take the photos for me, but he was a little too busy munching away that he forgot to snap!

So after a month of experimenting and debating about what should be served, and if it was feasible, this is the menu for the dinner party.

Nibbles to prevent gastric while waiting for the late comers
Chips and Dips
Quail’s eggs steeped in a dark sweet sauce
Assorted gourmet sausages with red cabbage
White Chocolate with Caviar

Aubergines with garlic, mint and chili
Vegetarian rice paper rolls
Sambal kangkong with goats cheese wantons

Salmon tartare with wasabi aioli, tobikko and nori

New Style Beef Sashimi with sesame dressing

Pomelo Salad
Pina Colada Espuma

Linguine with crab, garlic, chili, prawns and garlic chips

Sugar High
Chocolate tart with strawberry ice cream

I felt a little like the surreal gourmet and his traveling toaster mobile, since I practically brought half my kitchen along with me, my giant microwave, knives, serving plates, shot glasses, mixing bowls, tupperwares of prepped food, baking dishes, graters and all the bits and pieces since I was cooking at the couple’s new house and rather naked kitchen.

Once the people started streaming in and the alcoholic punch bowl level started dipping, I had to start churning some food to feed the hungry. The salmon tartare was probably the crowd pleaser. The fresh salmon against the creamy and zingy aioli and the tobikko left many wanting for more, but I only made enough for 18 portions. This is great because the tobikko adds crunch and fun to the dish with the tiny bubbles of roe bursting in your mouth.

My personal favourite was the pina colada espuma, simply because since I purchased my ISI profi whip, I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, and so I was simply dying to put it into action. It’s great for parties too because you can make everything in advance and just give it a little shake and a squeeze when needed. The pina colada was great too, as the cold foam acted as it’s a shot of light cold goodness.

I’m rather proud of my semi-cheesy cliché dessert course. I tried to play on the theme of love (since it was a celebration of the union of two people), and so I wanted to have chocolate, strawberries and champagne in the dessert course. Hence, this is what I pieced together, dark chocolate tart served with a side of strawberry ice cream and sticks of chocolate and strawberry pocky and a little glass of champagne. A little toast to the couple and we rounded off our meal.

Operation wedding in my opinion was a success, YAY! (over and out!)

Monday, May 23, 2005


5 Koek Road
#01-01/02 Cuppage Plaza
Singapore 228796
Tel: 67372221

After reading a past entry on Ahodori by Chubby Hubby, we decided that we were left with no choice but to head there for dinner to try the yakitori out. They don’t serve you a whole array of yakitori, that is that won’t serve you everything that crawls on the land and things that swim in the sea, but what they do serve, they do serve it up well, and maybe that’s the idea - ‘let’s just stick to what we are good at’.

Nosh: Chicken yakitori – chicken balls, fillet, morsels, hearts, livers. In addition to this they have a pretty long list of appetizers that you can order from, I had the baby potatoes with the sweet sauce because Chubby Hubby was raving about them, and they were indeed absolutely delicious. The only thing that kind of scared me was that a sizable number of appetizers contained raw chicken and the only thing I could think of was salmonella and so I didn’t sample any of those.

What they grilled, they grilled well. The chicken balls were tender and tasty and the chicken liver was almost divine. Over cooked liver is gross and I’m in awe how the chef managed to get the cooking and timing absolutely spot on, cripsy on the outside and just cooked and wobbly inside. I shall some day attempt to do this on my grill, but I expect myself to take a year to get the timing spot on.

In addition to that, we decided to try out their rice dishes. We had the house speciality – Gomoku Kamaseshi which was steamed rice with chicken and vegatables in a small ceramic pot and we also had the tori chazuke which is a soupy mixture of tea and chicken. I never had tea rice but the flavours are very gentle and subtle and its not that tea-ish at all. I recommend you trying anything from the rice section.

Pay: S$25-S$40 a person for dinner, for the works and a little more for sake.

Raves: I think I’ll come back for a few more liver on sticks.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

IMBB #15: For the love of coffee

I was thinking of how to add a little twist to our coffee and tea endings to a meal when I was planning for a dinner party. So when it was announced that this IMBB was going to be Jelly, I was really excited to test out this idea. I used a recipe from the gourmet traveler magazine which was on black coffee jellies with cinnamon truffle squares. The recipe gave me an idea of making coffee jellies with early grey truffles for meal ends (but I haven’t made my early grey truffles). The recipe is really easy, what I did was I made a coffee dessert from it, I decided to make coffee jelly with a shot of baileys!

Coffee Jelly:
3 leaves of gelatine
110g caster sugar
175 ml freshly brewed espresso coffee (I used Illy)


Soak gelatine in cold water for 2-3 minutes or until soft, then squeeze out excess water. Meanwhile place sugar and 2 cups of water in a saucepan, stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Remove from heat, add soaked gelatine, hot brewed coffee and stir to dissolve gelatine. Divide mixture among six glasses and refrigerate overnight or until set.

Poured a nice think layer of baileys, serve and eat!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Operation Wedding: I don't think I can eat another sausage for a while

After a brief consultation with the couple, I decided to either go with a bangers and mash or maybe a sausage course, whatever it was, it was clear to me that they would like to have some sausages. I'm not a fan of sausages and I never ever have cravings forthem, and so when I decided that I had to taste sausages to find out what I wanted to use for the dinner, the thought made me sick, and I'm still feeling a little ill and thirsty from lunch. I made my way down to the Swiss butchery where it was bustling with activity. I pottered about, but I left my brother to make the decisions about the sausages because he is more a processed meat fan than I am. This is what I ended up tasting and consuming.

Cheese sausage
Veal Sausage
Nuernberger bratwurst
English Sausage
Pork Chipolatas

I CANNOT EAT ANOTHER SAUSAGE. (at least not for the next half year)

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Friday, May 20, 2005

Jaan - The Room with the Food and the View

We probably stood out like sore thumbs in this fabulous room with a really weird ceiling that I didn’t understand and like. Maybe that’s why they decided to seat us at a corner so that no one would see us in our semi-formal; semi- casual weekend outfits against the power suits that seem to dominate the space. Nonetheless, we were happy being tucked away in one corner, to enjoy the view, the food and our own company.

I’ve heard great things about Jaan, and from everything I’ve read about it, it touts itself as a modern French, or more specifically, French with a Khmer or Cambodian influence. I spotted the influence in the mirror’s frame in the far corner, but other than that, I wished the waiters did a little more to explain the influence or that it would have been a little more evident, or am I just not getting it? Well, when I do go back for an a-la carte dinner or maybe the chef’s dinner menu, I shall ask to be educated. So on the the more important issue, this is what we ate.

Nosh: We had choices for each course, for an appetizer, I went for the scallop and salmon ceviche, and my partner had the ricotta and spinach ravioli with a tomato coulis and if memory does not fail me, it is a pea sauce. My ceviche was wonderful, clean and fresh flavours and the ravioli was pan fried and hence it was the tasty mush with the crispy skin was great against the red and green sauce.

For the entrée, there was a beef, fish and pasta option, we both had fish – red mullet with pumpkin, asparagus and a champagne sauce. The fish was great! It was seared nicely and the champagne sauce was creamy but not light and but what weighed in nicely was the even creamier and very smooth pumpkin that the fillets sat on.

I’m not a huge sugar, dessert person, I rather get high on caffeine from dark chocolates and coffee rather than on sugar, so after about half of my fromage blanc soufflé I thought I had hit my sugar limit for the week. We had the fromage blanc with a passionfruit ice cream, which was a little confusing, since the soufflé come looking more like a flan. It tasted like a soufflé but I rather have it towering rather than sprawling. Instead, the passionfruit ice cream looked like a soufflé and so I was a little confused for about a minute. Nonetheless, it was good. I liked the tartness in the passionfruit ice cream that balanced the sweet soufflé. And this dessert was chosen from a choice of a soufflé, crème brulée and a chocolate mousse with their fruity sidekicks.

Pay: S$30+++ for the set lunch. I sneaked a peak at the back of the menu and I think the chef’s menu is S$180+++ and I would say expect to pay about S$150 per person for a la carte.

Raves: It’s the room with the view and the food to match the great food. The service was also efficient and attentive. It was also really nice that since it is located on the 70th floor, when you enter on the first and check against their reservation list, they ensure that someone meets you at the lift, greets you by your reservation name and leads you to the restaurant. I liked my sneak preview, I’ll be back for more!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Ser Seng Herbs Restaurant

39 Tai Thong Cresent
Singapore 347863
Tel: 62876341
(Closed on Mondays)

I think good food evokes emotions. I haven’t been to this restaurant for nearly two years, but once I took a step inside and the whiff of the herbal soup hit me, I remembered. I remembered coming here on many Saturdays as a family because my father loves a hot soup. The yam rice, the herbal soup, the eggs that burst in your mouth and blowing my nose after lunch because of the heat and herbs from the soup that would clear my nasal passage. Slurp and burp.

Nosh: Herbal Soups. Mainly Turtle soup or you could have a black chicken soup. If you never had turtle soup, it taste like chicken, but it is slightly tougher.

Pay: S$9-S$20, depending on what you want in your soup, spare parts, eggs, a larger or smaller bowl.

Don’t expect service here, it is efficient but not friendly. Slurp, burp and thank you very much is the tune that is being sung here. It’s the only turtle soup stall I know because this was the only place my parents brought me, but I shall have to check out makansutra and see where else is being raved about. Any suggestions?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

And I said, “What about breakfast at Sebestien’s, as I recall, we both kinda liked it…"

Sebastien’s Bistrot
12, Greenwood Avenue
Singapore 289204
Tel: 6465-1980

Breakfast is one of my favourite meals of the day. Despite the fact that I’m probably one of the most boring breakfast eaters you might ever know. I have eaten yoghurt with muesli and extra bran for years and am not ready to change that routine except that I have traded in my freshly squeezed juice for the fresh fruit itself, other than that, nothing has changed; I usually even use the same bowl. Once in a while and usually on a weekend, we would have a breakfast outing as a family, either trotting down to my father’s old stomping ground at Tiong Bahru market for his comfort porridge or a good bowl of mee pok. Today was slightly different; we had a date with decadence. Our breakfast expedition was to double-up as our delayed present to our mother for mother’s day since the restaurants were bursting at their seams last weekend. It’s a great way to start a Sunday too, slow and easy, with a slightly luxurious and comforting meal and a cuppa.

Egg Perigourdine with soldiers

Nosh: Breakfast choices include the full English, continental, or choice of eggs with bacon, sausage, baked tomato, mushroom ragout and baked beans. Either that or you can piece your own breakfast together.

We all went for the Egg Perigourdine with soldiers, which was basically the full monty with our eggs baked with some foie gras and drizzled with truffle oil. The eggs were a delight, it felt a little decadent for my stomach 9am, but whatever doesn’t kill it will make it stronger and happier. The rest of the platter was well presented but I think the mushroom ragout which tasted to me like mushrooms buried in a roux was too much for me, I would rather have them sautéed in some herbed butter. If you do order a café grand, be warned, it is GRAND, it is a soup bowl rather than a enlarged mug of coffee and isn’t too ergonomic for drinking. However, all in all, breakfast was good.

I haven’t had lunch or dinner here yet, but being part of the les aims group, it shouldn’t be that bad, although it will be a little on the pricey side.

Pay: A big breakfast a la Sebestien’s ranges between S$10-S$17, depending on how you would like your eggs done.

Raves: They say the most important meal of the day is breakfast, so what better way to kick-start your day. The ambience is also inviting and comforting and accented with cute half cheesy red and white gingham napkins and lampshades.

Disappointed: They only serve breakfast on weekends and public holidays. We took a futile drive down during one of the weekdays and had to drive home. Boo.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Original Sin – A night-out in the Garden of Eden

Blk 43 #01-62
Jalan Merah Saga,
Chin Bee Gardens
Tel: 64755605

I usually make a face if you tell me you are a vegetarian because it’s difficult to cook for vegetarians and I who only started eating and enjoying vegetables in the last 5 or so years of my life cannot imagine a life without meat. Imagine life without duck confit or a black and blue steak. I actually think that people won’t be as nice if there wasn’t good food in the world. Nonetheless, vegetarians are people, grass eating people, but people still, and so I still count a few of them my friends, but that hasn’t stopped me from making faces at them and calling them after the name of sprouts.

A girlfriend of mine was celebrating her birthday and since she is vegetarian and was going to pick up the tab, we were obliged to cater to her needs and so we found ourselves dining under the moonlight/streetlight along the sidewalks of Jalan Merah Saga at original sin. It was a Wednesday night and I was surprised that the restaurant was rather crowded, maybe we are becoming more health conscious as a nation and so vegetables are in. I enjoyed my dinner, although I feel a little veg-ed out, the ambience, service and food made it a pleasant evening.

Bosco Misto

Nosh: Needless to say, but I shall state the obvious, but sorry guys, there isn’t any meat here. However, here in this garden of Eden, there is a reasonable range of choices for you to compose your vegetable medley. A copy of their menu is also available online, so you can browse and decide on what you want to order before going, pictures are also available, which I think it fabulous, so you have a rough idea of what they are going to serve you.

For starters, we shared a mezze plate which we all reached in and more or less raped the plate of its pita bread and dips, there was almost a slight symphony in the movement of our various hands from the pita bread basket to your selected dip, into your mouth and then the repeated motion, but most probably to the next dip of choice.

For the next course, I had the moussaka which was a nice mush of flavours. However the star of the night was the bosco misto which is a mouth-watering spinach, feta and tofu patties smothered in a mushroom ragout marbled with a delectable plum sauce. When glancing through the menu I didn’t give the bosco misto a second look because to me it sounded weird, but it really tasted good and I’m definitely ordering that the next time I’m there.

Pay: S$40 a person for 3 courses

Raves: You must have the bosco misto. The service was also pleasant; they had a good knowledge of their menu and were attentive. Highly recommended if you need to take your veggie loving friends out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Operation Wedding: 2 Caviars

When my brother suggested serving white chocolate and caviar, it sounded like a brilliant idea. He said he had it in a restaurant in London (I think it was the Fat Duck) and it was simple but an excellent match. Hence, since he is my greatest and most honest critic after my mother about my food, I scribbled that down in the list of potential dishes for the dinner party. I then decided that it would be really nice to have a contrasting dish against the stark black on white, by having a white on black dish next to it. I however got distracted while reading Thomas Keller’s French Laundry and decided to use his eggplant caviar idea and to serve two caviars instead.

Post Mortem: Unfortunately, they looked better than they tasted. My eggplant caviar's taste was lost on the cracker and the white chocolate was too thick and the caviar was not salty enough. (well I was cheap and didn't invest in a good tin of caviar and so now I might have to waste more money throwing it away) Back to the cooking drawing board it is for me.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Operation Wedding: Salmon

I wanted a salmon tartare course in the wedding dinner, but the question was how to serve it. I love reading Thomas Keller’s French Laundry because the photography is gorgeous and reading about the man and his inspirations somehow inspires me to become a better person and to strive towards excellence. So much for those self-help chicken soup for the soul rubbish; just give me a book about an imaginative and inspirational chef. In the book, Keller talks about his famous salmon tartare in conets, which have found many memes in the restaurant business, but I decided not to make the conets because I didn’t have that cone shaper equipment at hand, and I wasn’t ready to purchase one because my tiny kitchen drawers are already too full so maybe I’ll consider getting one once I get my kitchen re-done. So I had to search for an alternative and so I decided to go supermarket shopping for some inspiration.

I had a vague idea of what I was looking for, preferably something crispy or maybe something sweet. I then thought of buying some of those inari skins and perhaps frying them for a crispy texture. However, NTUC the supermarket of nothing, didn’t carry my inari skins and so I looked around for alternatives. I ended up picking up a few items, Japanese rice crackers with seaweed shaped as coins, ice cream wafers and tofu puffs to experiment with.

I also went back and forth with what to mix in with the salmon and I went for a simple combination of mango for sweetness (and because I heart mangos), cucumber for crunch, and I decided to leave out the avocado, and toasted sesame seeds. The I also assembled a dressing/marinade for the salmon and I tried two different variations.

Basic Recipe:
Makes about 8-10 amuse bouche portions

150g sashimi grade salmon
50g cucumber diced
50g mango finely diced
1 spring onion finely minced
Toasted sesame seeds
Spring onions for garnishing

20 ml soy sauce
20 ml rice vinegar
1cm ginger peeled and grated
1/3 tablespoon of sesame oil


Combine dressing

Combine salmon, cucumber, mango and spring onions.

Assemble and garnish with spring onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Variation 1:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Dip the tofu puff in the marinade and assemble the salmon tartare on top.

Variation 2:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Dressing the salmon tartare and assembling it on the Japanese rice crackers.

Post Mortem: The tofu puff is a great vehicle to soak up sauces and flavours and its spongy texture was interesting. However I would go with the Japanese rice crackers because the crunchy texture is better against the soft and slightly creamy salmon.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Operation Wedding: Fresh Pomelo Salad with Dried Shrimp

This is my second attempt at a pomelo salad. I decided to try another recipe so that I can tweak it till I’m satisfied. This recipe does not have fresh prawns, chicken or crab meat but it can be added in for extra taste of simply for greed reasons, either is acceptable.

Fresh Pomelo Salad with Dried Shrimp
Serves 4 as an appetizer


3 tablespoons dried shrimp
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 red chilies, very thinly sliced
1 shallot, minced
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar (palm sugar preferred)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
3 tablespoons water
1 pomelo peeled and shredded to yield 2 cups of pulp
3 tablespoons roasted unsalted peanuts, coarsely ground
20-30 fresh mint leaves, to garnish


Rinse the dried shrimp well, peeling off any remaining shells. Drain and fry the shrimp pieces in a nonstick skillet over low heat for about 5 minutes. Rind the shrimp to a coarse powder in a blender. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the garlic until golden brown and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chilies, shallot, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, salt, pepper and water, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place pomelo in a serving bowl, add the sauce, dried shrimp and peanuts, and toss well to mix.

Serve chilled garnish with mint leaves.

Recipe taken from: Asian Tapas – small bites, big flavours.

Post Mortem: I added a little bit of coconut milk and the creaminess of the coconut milk helped to pull the pomelo salad together and to add some depth to the dish. I think it was still a little too salty and needs a little more sweetness, so I think I might either add some desiccated coconut or some fresh coconut shavings the next time. I also didn’t have any mint available at home, so I garnished with chives instead.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Operation Wedding: Beef New Style Sashimi

When my cousin and her fiancée asked me if I would cook for their small wedding celebration with their close friends, my reflex response was, “sure no problem, don’t worry about anything, I’ll pay for everything and it’ll be my wedding present to you.” I might have spoken to soon and was drunk with the idea of being the super cook for them. I must add that I was misled into thinking that it would be a party of 8-10 people, but it turns out that their guest list is 18, and so maybe my super powers as the super cook is slowly fading. So my kitchen has been dedicated to a month of experimenting for their soirée at the end of the month. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to pull it off.

This is the first of the experiments - Beef New Style Sashimi

Serves 1
60g Beef sirloin fillet (kobe/Wagyu preferred)
1 garlic clove grated
ginger julienne
2 teaspoon white sesame toasted
garlic chips (optional garnish)
5 tablespoon soy sauce

New Style Oil
90ml olive oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Cut beef slices into then, 1/8 inch slices
Pound lightly to stretch out inbetween cling film.

Arrange on a plate, spread a little grated garlic and then ginger and clives. Sprinkle sesame seeds and pour soy sauce.

Heat oil until it is just beginning to smoke and ladle a little bit over the beef.

Recipe Taken from: Nobu Now

Post Mortem: My beef was still a little too thick so I think the best thing to do is to get the butcher to slice it up as shabu-shabu beef. Other than that, its really simple to whip up and the flavours are good. I used slightly less soy sauce as well, and it was salty enough, so i guess depending on the brand and saltiness of your soy sauce, you should add to taste.

My next attempt at this shall include garlic chips.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Return of the Durian

If you have been driving around the city in Singapore, it’s hard not to notice and get distracted by the huge durian that has been placed just outside the entrance of Goodwood Park Hotel. Well, the durian is back, or rather the King is back. My grandpa used to buy loads of it and constantly fed me with it when it was in season that somehow when I grew a little older and could stage my own protest, I adopted an aversion to the fruit and the smell of it. However, recently, a friend of mine bought us a box of these durian crumble that Goodwood Park Hotel have recently concocted alongside a range of other durian pastries.

I haven’t eaten durian in years and this seemed like a less intimidating re-introduction to the fruit since it was cold and it seemed like ice cream, so I held my breathe and took a bite. It was actually really good! The durian was cold and creamy and the pastry and the crumble and pastry crust added an additional crunch and buttery dimension. I liked them but durian snobs might insist that it is adulterated, whatever the case, I say if it is good, eat it. So i guess that might mean I might start eating durian again.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The birthday salmon sashimi salad

My brother suggested having a salmon sashimi salad for the birthday cookout that we were planning, so seeing that it is his birthday, I had to oblige and hence the creation of this.

Serves 5
200g Udon
250g salmon sashimi
½ carrot julienned
½ cucumber julienned
1 sticks of celery julinned

2 tspn Sesame Oil
2 tbspn Soy Sauce
2 tspn Honey
1 tspn Black Sesame Seeds

Mix dressing and use ¾ of the dressing and mix with cooked and cooled udon and julienned vegetables. Mount udon on a plate and lay salmon pieces around it. Drizzle the rest of the dressing over the salmon and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. “Lou Hei” and eat!

Dharma’s Kebabs - Yum yum in my tums.

39 Boat Quay
Singapore 049834
Tel: 65369722

If you are craving for some good grub after a night out, this place is open to late and is strategically located along side the watering holes at boat quay. There is something magical about street food, maybe because it seems to capture the essence of food. I love dining out at restaurants and getting all dressed up for a night of being served art on plate, but sometimes restaurants get too caught up with the presentation that the very essence gets lost. Street food on the other hand is stripped down to its bare essence, without the frills, it is focused on food and food alone. In addition to that, you don’t have to get dressed and it is inexpensive! So after reading Gourmet Magazine May 2005 which focused on street food, I was craving for a kebab and managed to convince everyone else to have dinner at Dharma’s!

Mixed Platter (from left bottom corner moving clockwise): Falafels, curry fries, onion bhajis, chicken tikka, beef tenderloin and shish kebab

Nosh: A variety of kebabs – chicken tikka, beef tenderloin, shish kebab, tandoori prawn and if you are vegetarian, they have falafels and onion bhajis. All kebabs come with a curry fries and a refreshing mint sauce and a mild curry sauce. I think they probably have the best kebabs in Singapore, tender meats, great sauces and a fluffy bread make an excellent combination and so far everyone who I have brought here haven’t had much to complain about.

However, my hunt to satisfy my kebab/street food craving, we decided to have their mixed platters which feeds 3-4 people comfortably. This is excellent if you have enough people and can’t decide what to have. We had the mixed platter B which consisted of – chicken tikka, beef tenderloin, shish kebab, curry fries, falafels and onion bhajis and an additional order of garlic naan. The onion bhajis were surprisingly really really nice! I never had them and they are a mix of onions and chickpeas. The beef tenderloin was nice and juicy, the curry fries were delightful (I think I could eat a whole plate by myself with the curry sauce!). The falafels were disappointing, they tasted a little flat and herbless that it just tasted like really tasteless chickpeas. However, that probably won’t stop me from coming back to eat the other delicious things on the menu.

Pay: S$8–S$15 for kebabs and mixed platters range from S$25-S$45.

Raves: I love their curry fries with the milk curry sauce that won’t blow your head off but has enough of a bite. It is perfect post-night out grub.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


caviar course

The newest addition to our French restaurants received a raving review and so since its opening, we have been looking for a good excuse to make our way down there and we finally did! I’m sad to say that despite the impeccable service which is probably one of the best in our Singapore restaurants, the food didn’t quite live up to the expectations that the price tag put on it. There were sparks of excellence, but other than that it was a little bit of a hit and miss event.

Nosh: The dining experience here enhanced by the fabulous and attentive service staff, the food however was a little more of a hit and miss situation, where the food consisted of mainly good dishes and the gazpacho that was bordering on “yikes, what’s that?!” Here’s the run down of my notes that I took during dinner.

Amuse Bouche
Cauliflower Puree with parmesan
This was interesting. I have seen a recipe for cauliflower puree but I haven’t tried making it, and it was surprisingly delightful – smooth and lightly chilled and accented with small crunchy parmesan brittle and chives.

Caviar – Angel hair pasta tossed in classic caviar condiments
The pasta was a wonderful vehicle for the caviar to sit on. I think it was crème fraiche that was mixed in the pasta that was wonderful and creamy against the salty caviar.

Carpaccio – Carpaccio of Wagyu beef with truffle mayonnaise
Imagine this, melt in your mouth beef with salty parmesan and rocket for a bite. The presentation of the various colours on the plate was simple, clean but good and it tasted as good as it looked.

Foie gras – Foie gras mousse with mushroom cappuccino
A tad on the salty side and the difference in temperature between cold foie gras mousse and the foamy mushroom cappuccino was fun in the mouth. It tasted really luxurious in my mouth, with the truffle mushroom cappuccino and the cold creamy foie gras.

Prawn- Prawn Ravioli with tomato confit and fresh herbs
I was really excited about it because it looked wonderful, however, when I used my spoon to cut through it, I observed that portions of my prawn was grey! We did inquire with the waiter who told us that the chef said it has to be slightly over cooked. Err… just cooked and pink, acceptable, but I haven’t quite heard of prawns being half cooked. Anyhow, the service was fantastic and they took it back and replaced it. I’m still suspicious about this undercooked matter, because if the chef was wrong, he should have just said he was wrong instead of trying to pull wool over our eyes.

Soon Hock – Steamed soon hock, champagne sabayon, cauliflower couscous
This was delightful! The fish is really fresh because they keep live stock and so they fillet and steam it which retains the natural juices of the fish and the light sabayon was a great pairing with the fish, it kept everything light, fresh and it almost felt fluffy.

Gazpacho – Gazpacho with basil foam
This was probably the worst thing I had from their line up. The basil foam was terrible on its own, I felt like I was eating grass. However, with the roasted pepper gazpacho it was slightly better; the only problem is that you have to sip quite a bit of the foam on its own first before you get to the ok bit. If anything it was a great palate cleanser for the next course, although I rather have a lime sorbet.

Lamb – Tenderloin of lamb with roasted artichokes and rosemary jus
Good. Wonderful sauce and artichokes.

Udo – Udo with gorgonzola
This was interesting. I’ve never had udo before. In fact, I didn’t even know what it was! The waiter informed me that it was a form of root that and udo is from the ginseng family. It was kinda tasteless but have a nice crunchy texture to it, so it was a great base for the gorgonzola cheese sauce.

Rockmelon – Rockmelon soup with home-made coconut sorbet
I thought this combination of flavours was really clever, it made me wished that I thought of it myself.

Strawberry – strawberry soufflé with milkshake
Why take a dynamic duo if you can get an explosive strawberry trio. This was wonderful, the milkshake was creamy and cold. The soufflé was warm and light and as you continue over to the other side of the plate, we get cold and creamy ice cream. Sweet ending.

Petite fours, coffee and cake

Pay: S$150+++ for the dégustation

Raves: The service is probably something that many of our posh restaurants need to take notes from. In terms of product knowledge of their wines, you will be in the good hands of Sommelier Ignatius Chan. The rest of the service staff are also attentive, and I’ll give them extra points for serving the ladies at the table first because this is one of the rare times that I have observed this in our restaurants.

When I called to make a reservation, I also informed them that we were celebrating birthdays and so they were absolutely fabulous in arranging for a surprise birthday before our dessert course. Two thumbs for their service.

Disappointed: I feel like most of my cheque for dinner is for their rent and I went home disappointed.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Restaurant Voyeurism at The Fat Duck

As a follow up to the post on 50 world’s best restaurants, here’s an entry on the current heavyweight champion THE FAT DUCK. Unfortunately I wasn’t present to give you my low down on the restaurant, but my friends with their roving forks have decided to take up the task of doing a joint entry on their experience at the fat duck.

The Fat Duck
High Street
Berkshire SL6 2AQ

After winning so many awards, featured in so many magazines and consistently being ranked in the top 10 restaurants of the world, the Fat Duck came into the 'must try' category. The key issue floating in my head was whether it could live up to all the hype. Be forewarned, this restaurant is not the most accessible of places, but not too difficult to find. The decor of the place did resemble that of a rustic cottage(which did look a lot like the French Laundry when I saw it on TV) and I did quite like the wooden beams that were scattered all over the restaurant. Distance between tables was just about right, where you could feel comfortable within your own space while not feeling aloof and still being able to look around the restaurant, checking out what everyone is having/the buzz of the place.

Service was really prompt yet informal with plenty of small talk that helped you feel comfortable and take away the formalness of the whole setting. We decided on having the dégustation menu and were eager in anticipation for a true food experience after reading so much about this place. I must add that the sommelier was really helpful in helping us to choose 2 bottles of wine which were really good. But I digress, on to the food:

I will attempt to evaluate the food not just on taste but perhaps what I call the 'food psychology' to it.

Prepared in this huge metal bowl containing Liquid Nitrogen where the green tea and lime mousse was tossed around till it was a white puff before serving on a plate and being told to eat it straight away. It tasted incredibly light, almost like tasting a lime flavoured cloud/mist that was very cold. I thought it was a great start to the meal, not just as a palate cleanser but it gave the 'wow' factor in your face for the first amuse bouche and kept you thinking about the next course.

Came in an oyster half shell and was consumed in one mouthful. I must say apart from the passion fruit jelly, it looked quite ordinary. But tastewise, it was really good as all the flavours seemed to blend together really well which was probably the chef's intention. Certainly something different as a lot of places do pair oysters with sashimi/caviar so it was a welcome change to see it being paired with vegetable elements.

Came in your customary huge plate with small serving area... It arrived with just the mustard ice cream on its own before the servers came in to pour in the gazpacho. As they were serving the gazpacho, the only thought in my mind was that it looked so much like liquid bubble gum and how foreign it looked which im sure was another one of the chef's 'shock tactics'. Tastewise, took us all a little while to believe that the ice cream actually tasted like mustard since it tasted so real. The red cabbage gazpacho was also a lot better tasting than it looked. Nice course in the form of screwing your mind in 'what the hell am I eating' and yet delivering on taste.

Arrived in a egg cup shape thingy which looked like an inverted study lamp. Dish was nice with very strong flavours and well executed but nothing memorable. If anything, hearing the server tell you what it was made you wonder how the quail/langoustine/foie gras would taste when put together.

SNAIL PORRIDGE Jabugo Ham, shaved fennel
One of the signature dishes of the restaurant. On first impression, you are wondering what is the porridge made of since you can see token pieces of snail there which are there for texture rather than taste. Turns out the porridge was made from fennel in snail broth. Flavours were very clean but lacked any impact; perhaps in a larger portion it would be better. Personally, i thought that temperature wise, if it was served warmer, it would have been tastier. For all the hype about the innovative dish, this didn't live up to its hype.

ROAST FOIE GRASAlmond fluid gel, cherry and chamomile
How can you ever diss a Foie Gras dish unless the chef totally screwed it up. Interesting use of almond gel which gave a nice change of taste between slices of Foie Gras. The chamomile mousse/espuma also turned out to be very complimentary to the richness of the foie gras. Foie gras was perfectly roasted, crispy on the outside, with the yummy creaminess in the inside. Dish was not really unconventional but it was very well executed. Brought a smile to everyone at the table. Only complaint would be a larger piece of foie gras!

SARDINE ON TOASTSORBET Ballotine of mackerel ‘invertebrate’, marinated daikon
Yet another Fat Duck Signature dish. This one is definitely out to mess with your head. Came in a plate with with slivers of daikon that tasted a lot like ginger with a piece of raw mackarel on one side and the sardine on toast on the other. Think the greatness of the dish is how he manages to capture the essence of sardine into sorbet. Not for everyone's palate but I definitely liked it and appreciated what he was trying to do. Raw mackarel was very strong in the 'fish' taste and was in this dish to help you authenticate your brain to tell you that the sorbert you ate was indeed sardine. Slivers of daikon helped to cleanse the palate. Flavours were very strong and I suspect this dish would get mixed reviews across many reviewers but i thought it lived up to its hype.

SALMON POACHED WITH LIQUORICE Asparagus, pink grapefruit, "Manni" olive oil
Arrived with a piece of salmon totally wrapped in liquorice with two asparagus heads. Crazily enough, I think the tastiest bit of this dish was the asparagus heads. Perhaps liquorice was a nostalgic British flavour but i never really liked it. So i did not really enjoy eating the liquorice 'wrapping' of the salmon. I must give credit to the fact that the salmon was perfectly cooked, almost like medium rare just that with consistent texture as opposed to tataki. However, the liquorice did permeate the salmon and thus could not really enjoy this dish. Well executed but I would give it a miss purely based on personal taste. Could be a winning dish if liquorice was substituted for something else.

POACHED BREAST OF ANJOU PIGEON PANCETTAPastilla of its leg, pistachio, cocoa and quatre épices
This probably was the star of the meal. Nothing terribly innovative or special about its flavours but it was just good solid execution. Pigeon breast was cooked to perfection, providing just the right texture and intense flavour.( I suspect it was probably cooked in 50-70 degrees oil). Was accompanied with a samosa of sorts with pigeon leg inside which tasted just as good. Came with pistachio nuts with gave a nice variety of texture and the espuma(which i forgot what it was, also forgot what vegetables it came with) was completely moped up by everyone at their table. Very well done. thumbs up.

Exactly what it was: a piece of white chocolate with caviar on top of it. This was another bit of food psychology as you would never associate chocolate and caviar together. Tastewise, it was interesting to see how sweet and salty could actually blend into a overall pleasant taste. Interesting combination.

Was kept as a surprise by the restaurant since we tried to enquire what this was. Arrived with a tiny pamphlet about Mrs Marshall being the first person to invent the edible ice cream cone. It arrived as a tiny cornet with some ice cream in it, served with an edible rose petal. Rose petal tasted surprisingly quite nice, though the ice cream or the cornet was quite forgettable, to the extent I can't even remember what it tasted like. A bit too gimmicky with the pamphlet and it being a 'surprise' so from an expectation's standpoint, totally fell flat. I can't help but think that this is a rip off from Thomas Keller's French Laundry since one of his signature dishes is the salmon tartare cornet.......

Came in this tiny paper container containing very fine powder with a vanilla stirrer of sorts. Was instructed to just take a swig and let the powder reside in the mouth. Did as instructed and there was a lot more powder than i expected. Must say that the power is very fine and just melts in your mouth leaving a very sweet taste. To this day, have no idea what it actually was; but it sure did give everyone a suger high of some sorts.

MANGO AND D0UGLAS FIR PUREEBavarois of lychee and mango, blackcurrant sorbet
Presentation was very bizarre I must say since there was a mango bavarois(gelatin and whipped cream dessert) with a dash of mango puree by its side and another dollop of mango puree somewhere else that resembled an egg yoke. This was accompanied with a sorbet of blackcurrant sorbet and tiny jellies of mango and blackcurrant. Tastewise, the bavarois was once again rather forgettable but the sorbet and the puree were well done with clean flavours.

Essentially was a carrot and orange lolliopop meant to show the pushing of the boundaries of cooking. Nothing exceptional tastewise

Bavarois of basil and beetroot jelly arrived together and were told to eat the bavarois before the jelly. The bavarois was very strong in terms of its basil taste with a creamy texture which wasn't really to my liking personally. Similarly, the beetroot jelly was very strong in its taste but the texture was slightly more chewy and I thought this was very nicely done.

This was just a little too over the top for me. It came in a small Fat Duck cereal box with Fat Duck wrapping with the parsnip cereal inside. There was a small container of parsnip milk to be poured into the bowl with the cereal. After all the fanfare, it tasted quite horrible to be honest. This would be the best example of trying to be too creative for creativity's sake. Big thumbs down from me.

The last of the signature dishes of Fat Duck and definitely one to screw your mind with. Not only was he playing with the flavours of ice cream but he deliberately chose to use a breakfast theme at the end of the meal: starting with the cereal and ending with 'bacon and eggs' and tea jelly. Arriving on the plate was smoked bacon and egg ice cream, french toast and caramel. Most of the attention was on the ice cream, and rightly so, since it was probably culinary brilliance to produce something that tasted so close to the real thing.(Regardless of whether you actually like bacon and eggs as an ice cream) French Toast was well executed and pleasant, careful not to steal the limelight from the ice cream. The caramel was incredibly concentrated and intense which i liked considering I do have a sweet tooth. Tea jelly came in this half cracked egg shell container which was nice aesthetically and the tea jelly was nice and refreshing especially with the intense flavours on the plate. On the whole, i do appreciate the whole breakfast theme of dessert which was interesting but apart from the smoked bacon and egg ice cream, I don’t think I found anything else memorable(From White chocolate and caviar to this course). Perhaps it was personal bias but i was hoping for desserts that were a lot more assertive in flavour and perhaps something more conventional to give a nice, sweet end to the meal.

The food psychology continues with unconventional flavours for chocolates. Call me old fashioned, but I like my chocolates the way they were. The leather chocolates were quite alright actually with a nice subtle 'leathery' after taste to it. The oak one was quite similar, though you could not really make out the oak taste. The tobacco chocolate was just wrong, the less said about it, the better. Innovate they definitely were but i think a this is a classic example of trying to be clever once again.

Tartlet was very rich in taste and provided a sweet end to the meal which probably was the intention of the chef.

Overall, it was definitely a pleasant dining experience, enhanced by having really good company (thank you ladies, but we still have unfinished business in the form of French Laundry by 2010), service and wine. This meal was supposed to be about food nostalgia and I'm not sure whether it was achieved, possibly also because of cultural differences. My main criticism would be that the amuse bouche were really good and played up my expectation of the upcoming courses which were good but did not live up to the highest expecatitons that I set. Also, some of his courses were hit and miss, but that could be due to personal preferences and with such a large menu, it would be difficult to please everyone's palates with such 'controversial food'. However, is no doubt that Heston Blumenthal is one of the most creative culinary artists, and as a foodie, I would consider this is a 'must try'. Whether you like it or not, at least you can claim to have tried such nouvelle cuisine.

Scribbled by: Justin Low

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Tapas Tree

#01-08 Shop House Row 3D
Clark Quay, River Valley Road
Tel: 68372938

I sometimes wonder how much preferential treatment food reviewers get when they inform the restaurant that they are coming in to do a review or when the restaurant manager recognizes the face of a reviewer and ensure that they get good treatment. We (my brother and I, but I would say my brother is the main researcher) go through a relatively voluminous amount of food literature and we read about all these restaurants that are new in town and the raves, razzle and dazzle that these restaurants have, but sometimes when we get there, it is far from what has been promised. On the count of food, I concede that ok, fine maybe our palates are biased a certain way and some things are just a matter of taste, some people like sweet, some like savory. However, on the count of service, sometimes I think the reviewers are just way off the mark. Service is integral to the restaurant experience, and bad service does not equate bad food; but feeling pissed while you are eating isn’t a fun at all. It does defeat the purpose of a review isn’t it? What’s the point in having someone go there and tell you about the special treatment that they received if you aren’t going to get replica of it?

The tapas tree. We went there all excited about dinner, the menu was exciting, it had a rather long list of cold and hot tapas and of course paella but the service was ghastly. I would have been happier paying Mcdonalds S$6 for an up-size meal even though it is detrimental to my heart. At least I would have gotten better service there and service with a smile!

calamares rellenos – grilled squid with pimiento, celery, onions and tomatoes

Nosh: Seafood/meat tapas, cold tapas, vegetables, croquettes, tortillas, paellas and bread to mop up the sauces. The desserts looked tempting with the classic churros with chocolate, but I was too angry by the end of my tapas to fork over my money for dessert. We decided not to have a paella because we decided that we were going to go all out on the tapas. We did a staggered order, where we ordered 3 tapas at a time, however, this only lasted 2 rounds because, the bad service was the deciding factor in telling us when it was time to go. We had the calamares rellenos – grilled squid with pimiento, celery, onions and tomatoes, patatas bravas – deep fried potatoes with green olives and pimiento served with aioli, tortilla de corizo, tapa – pan fried thinly sliced marinated beef striploins, pollo con paprika – chicken with a cream paprika sauce and salted cod with a tomato sauce of sorts. The food isn’t bad although it is a little on the pricy side. I will advice you not to order the salted cod, because I didn’t like it. Till today I’m still certain that they didn’t serve us the patatas bravas and they served us something else instead, because it wasn’t like anything the menu described and I tried to reason with them that there were no olives in my dish and they brought it back and threw olives on it, both green and black to satisfy me.

Pay: About S$40 a person for tapas and a paella.

Raves: I love the ambience. I always like the thought of dining by the river.

Peeves: Can I tell you more about the bad service? Peeve 1: They kept serving us dishes that were meant to go to another table, they got one of our orders wrong (although the guy that made the mistake was polite and apologized profusely). Peeve 2: When I asked for a recommendation, the waitress looked at me blankly without an opinion, recommended one dish which I wasn’t interested in and didn’t offer another opinion.

We even contemplated insisting that we shouldn’t have to pay a 10% service tax because it surely seemed lacking but the captain (the man who apologized profusely) seemed reasonable and so we decided to just pay up and to never go back.