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Summer Pavilion (Singapore, Feb ’17): incredible dim sum

21 Feb
Summer Pavilion has been my pick for the top Chinese restaurant in Singapore for a long time, even before Michelin was a twinkling in the Singapore Tourism Board’s eye. (It currently has one star.) I grew up eating in Chinese restaurants long before I set foot in a European fine-dining restaurants, but the consistency of Summer Pavilion’s excellence has always impressed me more than its hotel/corporate competition. I’ve had stunning execution of classic dishes at many, but there is always an intelligent and forward-thinking touch at Summer Pavilion.
I recently had an incredible dim-sum meal there this week that cut through my recently apathy towards blogging:
  •  We had lychee-oolong tea from Taiwan, which was flavored with “The Eight Treasures”

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  • Congee with fish slices
    • It was made with red snapper, a firm neutral-tasting fish that would be seen as a blank canvas for chefs, except for a delicious and visually appealling gelatinous red skin, rather than offcuts or snakehead (toman) fish which is too rough. The thoroughly crisped dough was a nice different touch from the usual soggy cut youtiao.

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  • Steamed rice skin roll, shredded chicken, mushroom, ginger, spring onion
    • I thought this was an amazing dish. Instead of the usual rice skin roll (changfen) with a mix-and-match meat filling, this was a harmonious composition of silky rice skin, the piquant aroma of shallot oil, and a mix of textures from both vegetables and meats. The shallot oil was a wonderful companion to the light soy that usually goes with changfen.

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  • Steamed vegetarian dumpling, lily bulbs, water chestnut, sweet pea, mushroom, preserved vegetable
    • I decided to go with dumplings primarily for lunch. I would not have ordered this, had it not been for the mention of lily bulbs, which is an absolute favorite ingredient of mine. The dumpling, bursting with sweet flavors, was a wonderful summary of the best of nature’s light ingredients.

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  • Steamed prawn and bamboo-shoot dumpling
    • This “har gow”, had a juicy and firm prawn, well coated with a crystal translucent skin. The bamboo shoot diversified the crunchy prawn texture.

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  • Steamed lobster, fungus, onions and carrot dumpling
    • Reprise of har gow with a different ingredients – again, juicy and firm.

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  • Baked abalone puff, assorted mushrooms, carrot, onions
    • A perfectly tender abalone, with the concentrated mollusc taste, on a sweet bed of pastry, with textural contrast from chopped mushrooms. This was a perfect bite, served at a perfect temperature.

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  • Chilled aloe vera, kiwi, strawberries, lime juice

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  • Chilled cream of sago, mango, pomelo
The meal ended up being comparatively short at an hour, but what a meal! I conveyed my feelings to the server, who was justly proud of the chef’s cuisine and the restaurant’s Michelin star, and this meal reminded me again how brevity and a few excellent courses can form an indelible culinary memory.
 
Rating: 20/20

Whitegrass in Singapore (Sep ’16): “international cuisine worth the name”

24 Sep

Whitegrass is one of the most intriguing restaurants in Singapore I’ve been to this year (though this year has been a fairly quiet one!). Not because the dishes at Whitegrass are straightforwardly delicious – no, the most straightforwardly delicious meal this year might go to Odette (Singapore), which turned out a fine French meal with aplomb in June. Rather, it is because chef Sam Aisbett, an ex head-chef of Sydney’s Quay, has an adventurous mind, and his attempts at “international cuisine” dishes are some of the most sophisticated I’ve tried.

“International cuisine” is often interpreted by chefs at a very basic level to mean using ingredients from other geographies in homage to the foreign style – e.g. I’ve had a few dishes in Europe that featured Japanese ingredients, that had diverged too far from the original to remind me of them. (For example, a kingfish “sushi” at Bareiss (Germany), a great restaurant, but fish on cold rice with a sweet starch bore only a passing resemblance to sushi). These dishes rarely excite, and I often prefer if the chefs would serve me dishes in the style that won them plaudits, and serve these foreign dishes only to European locals/regulars who would be impressed by/tolerate these experiments. Thankfully, at most high-end places, they usually restrict the number of these dishes to a quarter of the menu at most.

The worst excesses of international cuisine are perpetrated by chefs who indiscriminately use foreign ingredients in their cooking. This seems to be more an American affliction, and I shan’t name names, but every major American city has their share of chefs who serve kimchi burgers, and XO sauce something or other, and with invariably inedible results.

The meal at Whitegrass was beautifully presented, with well-thought out flourishes (a flowercup of salted-egg yolk stands out in my mind). It wasn’t a perfect meal – I didn’t like all the dishes, primarily because for the 8 course meal , cream was used in almost every dish, and we felt really heavy towards the end. There were a couple of clunkers in the meal – a butter poached pigeon that was tasteless and a plum cake that had poorly thought-out sugar architecture. But what made this meal stand out was two “international” cuisine interpretations that I felt would equal anything in restaurants in those native geographies.

I was particularly impressed with a slow roasted Mangalica pork wrapped in roasted black moss (“fatt choy”), which replicated the taste profile of a popular Cantonese fine dining dish where abalone is served with black moss, a light brown sauce, crunchy lettuce for texture. It came as no surprise to me that the chef is a frequent patron of Chinese restaurants, because the taste resemblance was uncanny.

The second, which was my favorite dish of the night, harked back to North America. It was a delicious composition of semi-hard textures – West Coast geoduck, fermented celeriac, hen of the woods mushrooms (commonly foraged in the Northeast), with some millet crisps. The trio of geoduck, celeriac, and hen of the woods each had a different bite to the tongue, but the combination was just a pleasure to chew. It was among the best composition I’ve had of these ingredients, including anywhere in North America.

Even the dishes which I didn’t think were knock-outs were incredibly intriguing – including a creamed chicken salad with hazelnuts and artichokes that reminded by of a very good Waldorf salad.

Sam Aisbett’s kitchen is probably one of 2-3 kitchens in Singapore where I have had dishes that are both wholly original and refined – the others being Candlenut and Restaurant Andre. Great to have it as an option in Singapore.

Rating: 16.5/20


  • 2016-09-16-20-59-26 2016-09-16-21-00-58 2016-09-16-21-01-06Snacks: Smoked diced hamachi with charcoal cracker; cheese biscuit with feta; pork with XO sauce

 

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  • “Bibimbap” – nori cream, dashi jelly, cucumber balls, trout roe, puffed rice, cherry radish

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  • “Sashimi of rock lobster, salted daikon radish, fennel pollen, frozen pomelo” (3.75/5)
    • Sour cream at the bottom, flavored like the Chinese red vinegar used in shark’s fin soup. I like the sashimi, but the nitro-frozen pomelo was a bad idea – the freezing reduced it to bitter pithiness; there was no sweetness.

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  • “White cut free-range organic chicken, violet artichokes, pickled jellyfish, fresh and roasted hazelnuts, sesame, ginger vinegar” (4.25/5)
    • A good mix of textures; the cream became a bit overwhelming to fully enjoy the dish, but it was an interesting intellectual dish, like a very good Waldorf salad. I like the touch of folded salted egg flowercups. There were little touches of flowers and root vegetables like chorogi.

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  • “Geoduck clam, steamed egg custard, fermented celeriac, white hen of the woods mushrooms, olive herb, umami broth” (5/5)
    • My favorite dish of the night. A tribute to North American semi-hard textures.

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  • “Lobster custard with tapioca and umami pearls” (3.5/5)
    • Very heavy – a chawanmushi with lobster oil. Decent, but the culinary-interest to how-full-is-this-making-me ratio was very, very low.

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  • “Australian tiger jade abalone with three treasures” (4.5/5)
    • Intriguing dish – genuine Asian fusion that was completely unique – eggplant, shiitake, and green peppercorns from Thailand, with salted baked abalone and a hint of black vinegar. It fulfilled the first commandment of Asian fusion that so many chefs break – “first, do not be inedible”, and was actually quite delicious

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  • “Slow roasted Mangalica pork, scallops silk, white turnip cream, cabbage stem, fried black moss, aromatic pork broth” (5/5)
    • A fusion dish worthy of any Cantonese fine-dining restaurant. Excellent.

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  • “Roasted Anjou Pigeon, slow roasted young beetroots, fresh milk skin, blackcurrants, native pepper berry, sour leaves (3/5)”
    • A clunker after an excellent string of highlights. A butter poached pigeon that was tasteless. The best part was the beetroots which provided distraction from the monotony of unsalted meatiness that was the pigeon breast.

 

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  • “White peach from Wakayama preferecture, silver milk and peach seed jelly, peach skin granita, sour cream ice cream” (4.5/5)
    • An intriguing dessert that had alternating spheres of peach-granita and spherified-milk-with-peach-pit-essence. The peach granita was excellent, and the coconut meringues on the wafer added a nice touch

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  • “Perserved Mirabelle plums, buttermilk mousse, roasted almond cake, crisp meringue, black plum ice cream” (2.5/5)
    • An unexciting and functional dessert. What I didn’t like about the dessert for me was the thick wall of frosting sugar to keep the structure of the cake/inner plum sorbet/top plum ice cream together. The sugar wall was barely edible, and was only clearly there for structural engineering. Such barely edible food architecture should be kept to wedding-cakes and gingerbread houses, and does not belong in a fine-dining dessert.

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  • Manjar blanco Alfajor, Raspberry snowball
    • An excellent Peruvian shortbread biscuit (the manjar blanco Alfajor)

Wonton noodles @ Empress Road Food Centre in Singapore (Feb – May ’16)

24 May

There are at least three major styles of wonton mee (noodles) in Singapore.

The “Singapore style” is characterized by sweet black sauce, dousing noodles that get soggier by the second, and a helping of red charsiew. The wontons are more metaphorically accurate, willowy sleeves of cooked dough surrounding a small core of meat. Some shops mix it up and have a soup based wonton, and a fried wonton covered in a tougher dough skin for an optimal mix of wonton textures. The noodles are treated with lye to make them have a crunchy texture. The Singapore wonton noodle will often have pickled green chilli for sourness and some type of ground red chilli sauce. The main strength of the style is its melting-pot approach to sauces, having the potential to be a really complex array of textures and tastes. The main weakness of the style is that the sweet black sauce often upsets the balance of the entire bowl of noodles.

The “Thai style” has minimal dressing and is served with a more chewy noodle, akin to kolo mee in East Malaysia. I believe the difference is these noodles are not lye-treated (but I could be wrong). Popular fix-ins are cubes of lard & fried wontons. The main strength and weakness of the style lies in the noodles. Like kolo mee, an overly doughy noodle is cloying, but a fist-sized clump of uncooked noodle, drizzled with lard and cooked al dente, is perfect.

The Hong Kong style is a very crunchy noodle that is served with a light soup, and served with prawn dumplings. The noodles are lye-treated, like the Singapore version, but are usually less soggy. At Mak’s Noodle in HK Central, they serve it on a spoon. The wontons are generally stuffed with shrimp, and have a crunchy texture. The strengths of this style are in the wontons (called by the alternate name “shuijiao” in Singapore), which are simply the most substantial, and the crunchy noodles. The weaknesses are an occasional over-use of lye in the noodle itself, which makes the noodle having an artificial crunchy texture.

Despite being raised in Singapore, of these three “pure” styles, I find myself preferring the HK style the best. I prefer my wontons hearty-sized and my noodles to have a balanced taste.

I recently moved to the West of Singapore, near Empress Road Hawker Centre. I have often had breakfast at two of the centre’s wonton noodle stores, and I find them excellent in their individual way.


Ah Wing’s wanton noodles are some of the best wonton noodles I’ve had anywhere. The entry-level “wonton noodles” are excellent. The charsiew is better than the crimson shoe leather that plagues so many noodles, being both black and tender. The wontons are a mix of pork and prawn, which gives it a more interesting texture over pork alone. The owner does not take metaphorical license from the name wonton (or “cloud-swallowing”) to dish a negligible portion of meat into wisps of flour. His wontons are golfball-sized, and the portions are generous. It comes as no surprise that the owner is an emigre from HK, and is run by him and his wife.

But the best-dish at the stall are the couple’s shuijiao noodles. Shuijiao, a codename for HK-style wontons, are usually available at every wonton mee stall in Singapore. The only difference is that the shuijiao usually feature a mix of prawn and pork, whereas HK-style wontons are usually pure or mostly prawn. What sets Ah Wing’s shuijiao apart from others in Singapore is the mix of ingredients – about 60-70% prawn, the remainder pork and strips of a crunchy black fungus.

Yet it is not a textbook HK style noodle. The sauce base is similar to the Singapore style, with a mix of green chilli, a savory chilli sauce, and a dark sauce base. The key difference is that the dark sauce is not sweet black sauce, but a light soy-sauce that harmonizes well with the other ingredients. The noodle is crunchy, but not artificially so. Another minor point: The soup is not laced with MSG, making it surprisingly drinkable (I have no quarrels with MSG as an ingredient, but find it overused). It is possibly the most balanced wonton noodle I have eaten – from sauce, to noodle, to wonton, and combines the best of the Singapore and HK styles. I do not exaggerate – I had these noodles almost everyday for breakfast in a three-week period, and found myself rarely tiring of them.

Rating: 5/5

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Wonton noodles

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Shuijiao noodles

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Chicken feet noodles

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Chicken feet hor fun


[Edit 16/06/2016: Chen Long wonton noodles is no longer at Empress Road Food Centre, and has moved to Blk 5058 Ang Mo Kio Ind Park 2 #01-1255 S569561.]

Chen Long wanton noodles are operated by a young couple, who set up their shop late last year. They are located a row behind Ah Wing’s wonton noodle in Empress Road, and have their own following. They do not directly compete with Ah Wing’s. Instead, they offer the textbook Singapore-style wonton noodles and a Thai style wonton noodle.

The Singapore style wonton noodles are not bad, but they use the same sweet dark sauce base which is not my favorite.

I however am an admirer of their Thai style wonton noodles. It is the definition of unhealthy food. The soup wontons are rather small, but the fried wontons have a delightful crunch, the whole bowl of noodles is dressed in lard bits and lard oil, and the dark sugar-coated charsiew is crunchy, especially if you ask for the cuttings at the burnt ends.

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thai-style wonton noodles

Ashino in Singapore (Feb ’16): “compelling fish, flawed sushi”

20 Apr

Ashino is a Tokyo-style sushi-joint in Singapore specializing in serving aged cuts of fish, which opened in 2015. The chef is an emigre from Japan, and has its fair share of regulars who seek a more off-beat Tokyo-style sushi experience, than the standardized edomae menu that places like nearby Shinji serve.

I found Ashino-san’s handling of the aged fish quite compelling. The standout cut from our February lunch was his 24-day aged grouper, which was fatty and rich in tasty oils, and sublime with squeeze of lemon. Accentuating the impression were crunchy pickle strips which gave the impression of eating a decadent round of fish and chips.

The chef is also an iconoclast more generally, revelling in sushi esoterica. His tsubugai sushi was delicious, his cross-hatching of the common whelk giving it the crunchy texture akin to true hand-dived scallop.

The weakness of the meal revolved around his rice. First, he served a few pieces to the customer by hand. It was a nice touch. But it revealed the inadequate compression of his rice. His shari fell apart easily, and twice when I had reached out to take a piece from his hand, the shari broke into half. I’m not sure why he chose to pack the rice so loosely –  perhaps it was an attempt to pack more air inside the rice, but he had not mastered the technique.

Second, his sushi sometimes felt unbalanced, with pieces that would be better served as sashimi. I think this is because he is an iconoclast when it comes to toppings with his sushi, and therefore there is a higher risk of failure with his pieces. The sushi pieces for lunch were these:

  • akami
  • botanebi
  • tsubugai
  • kawahagi
  • kinmedai
  • ika
  • chutoro
  • aji
  • nodoguro
  • whitebait
  • uni
  • anago

Of this group, tsubugai, kawahagi, nodoguro, are uncommon cuts, while whitebait was completely new for me. I felt the nodoguro overpowered the rice, especially since Ashino-san gave it a peppery and citrusy skin. The whitebait was visually arresting since they were cooked 4-to-a-group on a cherry blossom leaf. But they were rather dry and tasteless as a topping. The kawahagi sushi was topped with ankimo sauce and spring onions but it is hard to generate any gustatory excitement from a tasteless fish that’s basically a human chew toy.

Overall I found the experience an educational one. All things being equal I value an educational meal with flaws, more than a boring but tasty meal executed with perfection, so I would return to Ashino because I don’t see many chefs here championing the esoteric cuts.

Other links:


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  • Magurozuke, Aomori, aged 9 days (4.25/5)

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  • Botanebi (4.5/5)
    • Creamy

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  • Chawanmushi with botanebi eggs (4.5/5)

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  • Tsubugai sushi (4.25/5)

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  • Pacific Saury (grilled) (3.75/5)

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  • Kawahagi sushi (4/5)

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  • Ankimo

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  • Kinmedai, aged 18 days

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  • Shiroebi with yuzu (3.25/5)
    • Too dry

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  • Grouper, aged 24 days (4.75/5)

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  • Ika/Cuttlefish (4/5)

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  • Chutoro

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  • Aji

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  • Nodoguro (4.25/5)
    • Peppery and citrusy skin

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  • Whitebait (3.75/5)

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  • Uni

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  • Anago (salt) (4.25/5)
    • Powdery

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  • Tamago (4.5/5)

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  • Green tea ice cream

Dehesa in Singapore (Jan ’16)

20 Jan

Dehesa is an offal-tapas restaurant in Singapore, specializing in animal off-cuts. It opened mid-December 2015, and is currently only in its first month of operation. Despite this, the food is assured and much better than the run-of-the-mill tapas joint in Singapore. Each dish is either delicious or has a creative twist. As a casual restaurant, it is a gem.

The chef, Jean-Philippe Patruno, is a Spaniard raised in Marseille. He has been cooking in Singapore for quite a while, at Una restaurant located in the far Western part of Singapore (Rochester Park). However, the old restaurant is very out of the way for people living in the East like me, so I never made it there. I am glad however that he is putting his own twist on the usual Spanish small plates.

There were intelligent touches of using popular Singapore ingredients (tripe, lala AKA Venus Clams ). For instance, the tripe was fried, and the venus clams was done in the moules and frites style of stewing them in an olive oil/alcohol based sauce [specifically, moules mariniere]. The cooking is not fussy (the dishes are assembled using a skeleton kitchen team of 3 people when I was there).

It’s a small kitchen. Apparently the show kitchen is the only kitchen, so all the action really happens in front of you (if you have a bar seat).

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Crispy Tripe / White Peppercorn / Chilli Padi (4.75/5)

An excellent dish of fried tripe (stomach lining, usually cow). Despite the Singaporean love affair with tripe, I’ve never had fried tripe. This was excellent, with a mildly spicy white peppercorn sauce that had the alluring bitterness of roasted peppers.

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Duck Hearts on Toast (4.5/5)

Excellent.

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Frit Mallorquin (4/5)

A regional dish of Mallorca, this is also a typical Lebanese/Middle Eastern dish of an offal stew with mashed potatoes.

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Ox Tongue / Celeriac / Anchovies (4/5)

Very tasty

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Lala / Chillies / Sherry (3.75/5)

Done in the moules and frites style. (sans frites)

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Chocolat / Olive Oil / Salt (5/5)

We were on the fence about ordering a dessert, but the quality of this dessert just crowned our experience.  Thin slices of sourdough bread were dipped in caramel and then hardened, forming a savory crisp that was very addictive. An excellent conception.

Rating: 16/20

Wild Rocket in Singapore (2015): a disappointing flagbearer for Modern Singaporean food

30 Nov
  • Rating: (after 2 tasting meals): 13/20 (first tasting 15/20, second tasting 7/20)
  • Number of visits: 3 (twice in Jan ’15 – Feb ’15, once in Jun ’15)
  • One-line review:Wild Rocket is the oldest of the “Modern Singaporean” restaurants, started in 2005 by lawyer-turned-chef Willin Low. He cooks off-beat renditions of Singapore classics, and has been widely known as one of the first chefs to cook upmarket food in this manner.Recently, the food has been described by local commentators as Japanese-inspired because it has comprehensive sake pairings and clean plating aesthetics, and has a strong focus on seafood (5 dishes had seafood as principal components), raw (scallops), semi-raw (negitoro), or in a croquette (two types of crab). The cooking is not overly complicated, but focused on 2-3 principal ingredients (as opposed to 4-5 for Labyrinth, and the thick carpets of sauce at Candlenut). The standout dish of my tasting menu meal there was a thai pomelo salad with a savory ice cream, though I found the 4-course option on another night a bit more hit-and-miss. Overall I found it my first meal (in February) there enjoyable and assured. (15/20)However, I came in later in the year (around June) for another dinner, and found it very disappointing. There were no standout dishes, not any luxury ingredients despite charging $150+ per person. What I disliked most was when others in my table were served grilled king prawn noodles, I was served a very simple noodle dish stir-fried with kai lan (noodles with vegetables) merely because I had tried the king prawn dish before. To add insult to injury, the dish was described as having truffles (to justify its substitution) when it clearly had no truffles of any sort. It is one thing to have a very ordinary dish dish, it is worse when it is inferior to the normal offering, but to claim it is some sort of premium offering when it isn’t takes the cake. The dishes that night were subpar (perhaps because Chef Willin was not in that night)and I found myself thinking it was a waste of money. On the basis of the two tasting menus I’ve had this year (+ 1 4-course meal), I think the kitchen is (1)  inconsistent and (2)  the ingredients do not really justify the price. If one is looking for a fine-dining experience, a better value-bet is to dine at Les Amis instead.

    How can a restaurant charging $150 per person use canned pineapple in its dishes, and mislead diners about having truffle in its dishes? The ingredients are just subpar for the price.
    I will say however that service is excellent – and Ram and Willin are generous and knowledgeable. If you do come, make sure to drop by on a night that the chef is in.

  • Memorable dishes: Thai pomelo salad ice cream, sugee cake
  • Other links: Aun Koh’s review, Wong Ah Yoke’s review

FIRST MEAL

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  • “Chee kueh” Hokkaido scallop carpaccio with chai poh & truffle infusion
  • Flavored with truffle bits and truffle oil (3.75/5)

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  • “Thai pomelo salad”, fish sauce and coconut ice cream, peanuts, onions
  • Inspired dish (4.5/5)

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  • “Bak chor mee” Glass noodles, iberico pork fat, torched tuna (scrapings from the bone)
  • I enjoyed the fatty tastes, but it felt underseasoned to my taste. (3.5/5)

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    • “Tea leaf egg” Quail egg in pu erh, cod, Savoy cabbage (4/5)

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    • “Singapore fried noodles”: Hokkien mee pasta, shio kombu, prawn stock from head, lobster oil
    • It had a distinct “wok-fried” fragrance
    • 4.5/5

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  • Croquette of two crabs: Australian spanner crab on outside acting as glue for the croquette, Vietnamese blue swimmer crab on the inside for sweetness. A duck egg sauce below, acting as sweet custard, like liushabao.
  • The crab inside was a bit dry. 3.5/5

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  • “Beef hor fun” short rib, 48 hour sous vide. Black bean sauce.
  • 3.75/5
  • Black bean provided saltiness. One “hor fun” piece had the saltiness of black bean, the other did not. The one with, was markedly better.

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  • Sarawak pineapple sorbet, with vacuum sealed pineapple, mint sugar, chilli, soy salt from Kwong Woh Hin
  • Vacuum sealing the pineapple is claimed to improve the sweetness of the fruit.

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  • A comforting mouthful of cake, with a rich ice cream (4.25/5) “The secret is to mix coconut water with coconut cream to ensure a profound coconut flavor, because coconut cream by itself is very fatty.”

SECOND VISIT

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  • Hokkaido scallop carpaccio, shio kombu, truffle oil

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  • Red Thai duck curry salad. (3.25/5)
  • canned pineapple was used.

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  • Shrimps paste “har cheong” pigs ear, home made tartare sauce, mango salsa (4/5)

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  • Char kuey teow with cuttlefish (4/5) Wok hei was good.

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  • Kai lan pasta reduction (2.5/5)
  • This was served in place of one of the better dishes here (the king prawn noodles), and was just kailan stir fried with noodles. It was represented as having truffles – but I detected nothing of the sort

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  • Barramundi liver, ginger confit, claypot rice 3.5/5

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  • Rack of lamb tandoori, herbs and spices, cauliflower papadum, raitah. (3/5)
  • Undersalted, and meat of ordinary quality.

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  • Sugarcane with some sorbet

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  • Pulut hitam ice cream (3/5)

 

Les Amis in Singapore (October ’15)

24 Oct

Les Amis (2015): 17.5/20 (over two visits)


It took me a while to get to Les Amis this year because there was always something new on the Singapore dining scene – tapas, experimental restaurants, “Modern Singaporean” food. But two visits convinced me of the error of picking the newfangled over the star-spangled*.

* – Forbes, not Michelin

Traditional French sauces. I can’t think of many French restaurants in Singapore that are making traditional sauces from Escoffier. Les Amis’s chef Sebastian Lepinoy for a tasting lunch prepared two fantastic classic sauces – the first was a “sauce Americaine”, that harmonized two separate ingredients – a Brittany seabass and leek. “The leek will not harmonize with the line-caught bass [bar-de-ligne] otherwise”, Chef mentioned in a post-meal conversation.  The second, a sauce poivrade from Escoffier made with raspberry jam, was also very good.

It is a gourmet’s restaurant: The front-of-house take great pride in the gourmet ingredients they serve – cheeses, artisanal olive oil, Le Ponclet butter. Due to this depth of knowledge, FOH is able to engage diners in an equal conversation at the table. The diner’s value proposition is that he pays, but often in Singapore the front-of-house doesn’t have much knowledge of what is being served, and cannot engage in any in-depth conversation on the food. Not the case here.

Japanese elements. I would criticize the food here on one point. The chef enjoys working with Japanese products. But sometimes it comes at the detriment of the dish. My main dish was a piece of A5 Ohmi wagyu with sauce poivre. Ohmi wagyu is luxury because it is butter in beef-form. When paired with sauce poivre, the meat had little independent taste (though great texture), serving as little more than texture for the sauce. I wondered if the dish might have ben improved with a more robust tasting non-wagyu beef, as an equal partner of the poivrade sauce. The unstinting (one might also say “unthinking”) use of wagyu is not a “problem” confined to Les Amis, but as the most thoughtful restaurant it should think more about the ingredient pairing. Prior to serving the dish, our FOH mentioned that the chef had “sweated” out the fat from A5 wagyu. But isn’t the raison d’etre of wagyu to enjoy its fat content? Why is the chef transforming a Japanese product into something it is not?

Overall – the restaurant that best exemplifies gourmand-ism in Singapore, independent of flashy theatrics or hype.


PHOTOS from SECOND VISIT

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  • Le Ponclet Butter
    • An almost cheesy butter

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  • Smoked salmon maki with julienned celeriac, cold angelhair pasta with osetra grade caviar, first of season Alba white truffle (3.75/5)

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  • Australian spanner crab with Momotaro tomato “millefeuille” (3.75/5)
    • A sweet heirloom Japanese tomato layered with crab. Based on this and a previous visit where I had a foie and truffle millefeuille, chef is a fan of the millefeuille construction. Pleasant.
    • Served with toast and artisanal olive oil

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  • Hokkaido scallop, tempura chip, lemon, shiso flower, served with sweet sesame sauce on the side (3.75/5)
    • Good dish that only really came together with sesame sauce.

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  • Foie gras seared with sesame, mango compote, French river eel, dashi broth (4/5)
    • Individual components very good but little synergy. Foie paired well with fruit. River eel and dashi seemed standalone.

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  • Bar de ligne, leek, sauce Americaine. (4.75/5)
    • Brittany line-caught bass (bar de ligne) had a firm, savory flesh that was well prepared. The star of the dish was sauce Americaine, a sauce based on tomato and crushed lobster shells. The chef prepared it with cognac, which gave a sweet flavor, reminiscent of Chinese sauces with shaoxing wine.
    • Another association was Singaporean chilli crab sauce– both have a crustacean and tomato base.
    • The sauce was served with a side of unsalted baguettes to mop up the sauce (Chef believes that to serve it with sourdough or salted baguettes would overpower the sauce)

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  • Ohmi wagyu, poivrade sauce with raspberry, asparagus (4.5/5)
    • A5 ohmi wagyu. Dish would have improved with a robust tasting beef. Ohmi had great texture but little independent taste

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  • Cheeses from M. Jean-Yves Bordier
    • (e.g. Reblochon)

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  • Pear Williams (4/5)

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Yakiniquest in Singapore: beef appreciation

19 Jul
  • Rating: 16.5/20
  • Address: 48 Boat Quay, Singapore 049837
  • Phone:6223 4129
  • Price: ~SGD 140 = $100 USD
  • Value: 4/5
  • Chef: Masuki Akutsu

 


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There’s no getting around the fact that Japanese food in Singapore is going to be expensive. Within a couple of weeks, I had 3 friends who asked about good value Japanese food below $100. I remain without an answer to this question – if anyone knows, please tell me.

I think I know one answer to the broader question of “value Japanese food in Singapore”. I recently visited Yakiniquest, a Japanese yakiniku restaurant set up in Boat Quay, by a founding member of the Yakiniquest group, a Mr Suguru Ishida. The Yakiniquest group is an interesting beast, according to the restaurant’s website, it is a grouping of 5 yakiniku enthusiasts who got together in 1998, and went around Japan eating at >100 yakiniku restaurants yearly, posting their reviews on Yakinuqest.com, as well as authoring books and publishing magazines. As far as I can tell, this Singapore outpost is their only affiliated restaurant.

The restaurant is helmed by Chef Masaki Akutsu, who used to helm Yakiniku Shibaura. He is watchful presence at the front counter, steadily working through his cuts. The clientele of the restaurant is mostly Japanese expats – Japanese is the first language spoken around the restaurant

My first dinner consisted of A4 beef from Iwate prefecture, with a single piece of Australian tongue. (due to Singapore import  restrictions on Japanese beef organs). Three commendable points about the restaurant: First the grilling is done expertly, and secondly different delicious sauces are aptly paired with the meats. Thirdly, with a yakiniku restaurant you have perhaps less to innovate upon, but there were some surprising touches: A Niku soumen dish was an interesting twist on noodles, and the roasted green tea ice cream had a sophisticated taste unlike your run-of-the-mill matcha green tea powder based ice creams.

Good value for money? For beef connoisseurs, yes.


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  • Japanese salad/pickles (braised daikon turnip with beef essence)

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  • Wagyu beef sashimi – more a curiosity than anything of great succulence. The issue is that it was dry, and this limited the fatty texture (3/5)

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  • Niku soumen – a novelty dish consisting of shredded wagyu in soy sauce. This was based on a clever visual joke

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  • Shio tan (tongue) – This was the only piece taken from an Australian cow, as Japanese wagyu offal is not allowed to be imported into Singapore at the moment. It was highly succulent, one of the best pieces of the night (4.25/5)

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  • Rump

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  • Hire (tenderloin)

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  • Shinshin (eye of knuckle)

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  • Yakisuki (wagyu “sukiyaki” style) – a delicious sweet and umami sauce, mix of soy sauce, sugar and sake. I believe this cut is chateaubriand (a part of the tenderloin)

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  • Gazpacho – a shot of chilled tomato soup – a palate cleanser, that was also heavy from use of olive oil.

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  • Misuji (top-blade)

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  • Sirloin (striploin) with ponzu sauce (5/5) An exquisitely marbled cut that served as the piece-de-resistance, a burst of fatty flavor like a sponge. The spongey-fatty texture is found in two of Japanese fine-dining’s great obsessions – otoro and sirloin. Our eyes were riveted as the meat dripped fat onto the coals. There is something engrossing about a delicate piece of meat getting cooked

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  • Wagyu curry rice

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  • Inaniwa noodle with ice

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  • Red Bean Monaka (4.25/5)

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  • Black sesame ice cream

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  • Roasted green tea ice cream

Notable links:

Candlenut in Singapore: preserving an indigenous strand of home-cooking

13 Feb
  • Dates visited: 3 times in January 2015
  • Rating: 17/20
  • Address: 331 New Bridge Road, New Bridge Road, Singapore 088764
  • Phone: +65 8121 4107
  • Chef: Malcolm Lee
  • Style: Modern Peranakan

A distinction in Thailand between home-cooking and street food… 

While browsing David Thompson (head chef, Nahm) excellent book Thai Street Food, I was enlightened as to a distinction he makes between the older Thai traditional food and Thai street food (a relatively new development that started in the 30’s and 40’s). In the first half of the twentieth century, before most Thais began to work in urban areas, eating street food was actually viewed with stigma, as it indicated one’s family (usually one’s wife) was uncaring enough to not prepare full meals for the husband and breadwinner.

It is in Thai home cooking that we find the more labor-intensive dishes such as curries, soups, relishes and stir-fries, meant to be eaten with rice, and served all at once. In Thai street food we find single-portions, usually one-dish noodles or rice, along with some snacks. At Nahm, I was fortunate enough to have three great meals of traditional Thai food. From the description of David Thompson’s soon-to-be-open Long Chim in Singapore’s casino complex Marina Bay Sands, it appears he will cook Thai street food instead:

Recently awarded the No. 1 spot on San Pellegrino’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014 and 13th on World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014 for his restaurant in Bangkok, Long Chim is Chef David Thompson’s first venture into casual dining. The internationally acclaimed chef, restaurateur and cookbook author has crafted a tantalising menu that combines traditional street food and contemporary flavours, with a restaurant concept reminiscent of the vibrant streets of Bangkok. Rediscover Thai cuisine with beef with holy basil, chicken pilaf with turmeric and cardamom, and more.

It will be very interesting to see how Long Chim pans out, and is received by pan-Asian consumers (especially Singaporeans), because there is a lot of hand-wringing on the island of Singapore about the state of its own street food (or “hawker food”) and Long Chim may provide a solution – “sell it to a foreign audience unburdened with expectations” to reset. Ironically the success of Long Chim may solve the problem of local consumers not placing a high value on street food, but only by introducing it to a foreign and well-off audience.


… the distinction isn’t limited to Thailand, but exists wherever street food exists: If we think about it, historically street food required a few ingredients to arise: (A) a large working population,  either (B1)  no wives to prepare home-cooked meals or (B2) high costs for wives to prepare homecooked meals. In the most recent past, we had (A) and (B1) in Southeast Asia. Singapore for instance was a land of immigrants, and lacking wives they ate at street hawkers. To take the example of bak kut teh (pork rib tea), according to Dr Leslie Tay in The End of Char Kway Teow, “pork bone soup was being served by the Teochews around Clarke Quay, and the Hokkien around Hokkien Street [in the 1920s]” (p32, Tay). In Thailand, David Thompson mentions the development of Thai street food took place around that time period, and eating street food carried stigma about your lack of a caring family. Today, the (A) working population is doubled in size due to the entry of women into the workforce, and (B2) the opportunity cost of a working wife’s income forgone is much higher.


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Candlenut preserves the Peranakan tradition of home-cooking well, in my three meals there in January, I found the food to be robustly flavored with welcome touches of innovation. Take the buah keluak (pangium edule)  preparation, which has divided commentators like Wong Ah Yoke on authenticity – traditionally the meat (most commonly chicken) is cooked within the buah keluak nut and dunked in a sour broth. The chef, Malcolm Lee, here, prepares a sauce from the buah keluak independently of the meat, which tames the bitterness but is intensely meaty and flavorful (at least for the wagyu beef version). It is black gold to spread over rice. For me, to insist on authenticity is to miss the point, since Chef Malcolm Lee is the only one experimenting and innovating in this vein. If you want authentic preparations, there are multiple Peranakan restaurants on the island where you can get your fix. But I have found that this is the only place serving Peranakan food that has the capacity to surprise. In fact, the one ingredient I haven’t encountered at this restaurant is the eponymous candlenut!

Innovating away from haute street-food, which is not as fruitful as haute home-cooking. I am biased, but I don’t believe haute street food hits the mark as often as home-cooking or banquet-cooking dishes. I had quite a few over the past year – the HK waffles at Bo Innovation were okay, the cheese pimento at Sant Pau was a clever artifice but not much more, the street-food based canapes at Nahm were just overshadowed by the home-cooked mains, the everything bagel at Eleven Madison Park was another clever artifice… so on and so forth. The examples could be multiplied. I’ve also generally had a better time in Tokyo at kaiseki restaurants than at sushi/tempura restaurants (former street-food that has successfully entered the haute-cuisine pantheon). [I must note though the Fat Duck’s “lamb kebab” was my best dish of 2014, but it completely transformed from its street food origins] This observation that haute street-food doesn’t hit the mark quite as often is based on my eating experience. My theory about why this is so, is simply that they (A) generally involve less labor than home-cooked/banquet food, and (B) street food must often deliver a forthright punch to ensure customers come back, but this frontal impact comes at the expense of complexity of the dish. For instance, HK waffles pack oil and starch, tempura has an oiliness we crave. Many haute cuisine attempts to update street food just seem awkward, and I believe it is the impatience and lack of complexity with which street food unfolds its flavors.

Everything goes well with rice. Two sauces here can be classed as “world-class”, up there with any multi-Michelin-starred restaurant. They are the buah keluak sauce with wagyu beef rib, and the gula melaka sauce with king prawn. I could not dump them onto my rice fast enough. The swimmer crab curry was another highlight, but almost every dish whetted the appetite. It was sophisticated comfort food, and it felt like we were eating at a Peranakan relative’s house.

Candlenut deserves to be grouped with Nahm as an innovative restaurant that simultaneously respects tradition. I opened my post talking about Nahm’s David Thompson because the two restaurants Candlenut and Nahm remind me of each other in a deep way. The head chefs (Malcolm Lee, and David Thompson) are not showy celebrity chefs, but are deeply-aware and well-read on the history and preparation of Peranakan and Thai food, unlike so many other chefs who are chasing fame and notoriety in the wild-west of Southeast Asian fine-dining. Both restaurants, Candlenut and Nahm, produce food that reminds me of home-cooked food, comforting and yet sophisticated. Both have chosen family-style serving of dishes in pursuit of this ideal of traditional food. The dishes are made with high quality ingredients. And yet the chefs have been trained in the Western-style. They know of the latest developments in molecular gastronomy. Here Candlenut is slightly more innovative, but only deploys some modernist techniques (sous-vide, espumas) when it serves the dish. But every so often there is the potential to surprise you with a completely novel dish (Candlenut’s buah keluak ice cream, and their desserts in general are interesting) which reflects a keen culinary intelligence. Singaporean food is for the richer that a chef of Malcolm Lee’s talent has chosen to cook Peranakan food instead of molecular cuisine a la The Fat Duck.


Relevant reviews:


Excellent dishes are highlighted with a  *

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  • Canapes: Gula melaka/Brinjal chip, with prawn quenelle, cilantro. An appetizing palate opener. It had the right amount of sourness (I would guess it involved calamansi). It was very well done.
    • 4.25/5

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  • Kueh Pie Tee: braised turnips, pork belly, prawn filling
    • 4.25/5

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  • Ngoh Hiang: Crispy beancurd roll stuffed with minced pork and prawns, water chestnut, mushrooms
    • Not a bad rendition. I am a bit spoilt when it comes to ngor hiang since my aunt makes a terrific version (the best I’ve tried in Singapore by a mile), but I would prefer if it were shrunk down, to ensure more crispy beancurd skin to stuffing ratio. This ensures the savory skin gets maximum flavor. It would also be better (I am out of fashion here) if the ingredients were more coarsely chopped, such that you can taste the texture of the prawns (important) and meat. It would benefit from more prawns.
    • Too many people make the mistake of throwing the ingredients in a blender. That is absolutely the last thing you should do. The joy of ngor hiang is to sample the varying textures of ingredients in one savory package.
    • 4/5

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  • Wing Bean Salad: prawns, crispy fish, shallots, lemongrass, chilli, cashew nuts, mint, coriander with lime dressing
    • 3.75/5
  • Turmeric Wings: Deep fried mid-wings
    • 3.75/5

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  • * Omelette Chincalok: Fermented blend of salted baby shrimps, folded with spring onions
    • An simple yet addictive dish, with a real depth of taste. Had not had this simple dish done so well since Xu Jun Sheng in Joo Chiat closed down.
    • 4.5/5

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  • * Sambal Goreng Mushrooms: wok fried with crispy shrimp sambal
    • I love mushrooms. I recently learnt from Michael Pollan’s Cooked that there are three umami chemicals (L-glutamate from seaweed, inosine from fish, and guanosine from mushrooms). Much of the Straits Chinese cooking I love uses dried shrimp (umami, but is it from inosine?), and and this combined two of the three umami archetypes (fermented seafood and mushrooms). It was interesting to see mushrooms in place of the usual kang kong.
    • 4.5/5
  • Chap chye: braised cabbage with mushrooms, sweet & dried bean curd, pork belly and black fungus in rich prawn stock gravy
    • 3.75/5

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  • * Candlenut Satay: pineapple peanut sauce, cucumbers, red onions
    • Just the right amount of crispiness on the meat (slight at the edges), which was still juicy.
    • 4.5/5

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  • * Buah Keluak chicken

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  • * Buah Keluak F1 Rangers Valley Wagyu beef rib
    • I have tried both versions, but I would say the succulence of the beef fat has outperforms the chicken version, which is tender but marginally less flavorful. The sauce is like black gold you pour over your rice, a moorish flavor that recalls a Mexican chocolate mole, but with that bitter nuttiness that is unique to buah keluak. Fantastic, an innovation to be celebrated.
    • chicken (4.75/5)
    • beef (5/5)
  • Rendang: dry coconut curry with kaffir lime leaves and roasted coconut
    • 4/5

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  • Babi pongteh: pork belly braised in perserved soy bean gravy topped with chilli
    • 3.75/5

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  • * Yellow coconut curry of crab: blue swimmer crab meat, turmeric, galangal, kaffir lime
    • Ranges from 4.75/5 to 4.25/5. I have had this dish three times, and on the first two times this dish was almost perfect. (On the third time the crab had a slight bitter tinge to it which made the dish less enjoyable)
    • I mentioned to Chef Malcolm that I thought this dish was comparable to Nahm’s coconut and turmeric curry of blue swimmer crab with calamansi lime. He probably thought I was joking but I meant it. The swimmer crab was generous in portion, and the curry deliciously complex. the note of galangal was probably what recalled Nahm’s almost instantly
    • Nahm’s swimmer crab curry, picture for comparison: https://kennethtiongeats.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/2014-09-03-22-13-23.jpg.
    • The Candlenut version is slightly spicier than the Nahm version (if I recall correctly), but both are thick, savory curries you would love to splash upon your rice.

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  • * Gula Melaka King Prawns: coconut butter sauce infused w gula melaka, lemongrass & roasted coconut, fresh herbs and chilli
    • Another masterpiece. This dish is completely new to me, but the sauce concocted is absolutely addictive, with a butterscotch taste and a perfect counterpoint of gula melaka. It is now made with soft shell crab, but the two times we had it with king prawn were amazing
    • 5/5

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  • Passionfruit, watermelon-wasabi granite, basil
    • A good palate cleanser.

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  • Chendol cream: Signature coconut custard, gula melaka sauce w pandan jelly
    • I think that this dish had the right idea, but on the two occasions we had it it was barely cold. The joy of chendol is that it is a cold treat, and we look forward to the sweet icy coconut milk soup. For me the serving temperature was off. My friend Y also commented astutely that it was missing the red bean element. If it were colder, and had the red bean element, I believe this dish would be much improved.
    • The pandanus noodles (lod chong) also were a bit doughy, and lacked bite.
    • (Open question: While I was in Thailand, their pandanus noodles tended to have a roasted flavor. I still don’t know where roasting comes into the process though)
    • 3.25/5

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  • Textures of coconut: Coconut sorbet, coconut espuma, coconut jelly, grated coconut, coconut flesh
    • This dish is surprisingly light on the coconut taste. (The glaring omission is coconut milk). Presumably the kitchen wants to make this a light dessert. In this they succeed, the coconut jelly has the salty-sweet taste of the older coconut. My personal taste is towards a heavier coconut dessert though, but this is amiable.
    • However, it would be improved (within the parameters of a light coconut dish) if they were to use younger and sweeter coconuts.
    • 3.75/5

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  • * Durian Soup: Creamy durian ice cream with feuilletine, fresh durian puree
    • A winner. Decadent, creamy durian, no holding back. With a biscuit to provide textural contrast. The only minor change I would make is not to pre-add the corn flakes and the feuilletine so that they don’t get soggy so fast.
    • 4.75/5

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  • Banana Caramel Pudding: Steamed banana cake, caramelized banana, ginger crumble with gula melaka ice cream
    • A technically excellent banana cake, made with overripe banana. An admirably even brulee across two banana halves, and an equally  balanced gula melaka ice cream.
    • 4.25/5

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  • * Corn Hoon Kueh: Caramelised Baby Corn, Gula Melaka, popcorn, corn ice cream
    • There were two aspects of this dish that I really liked – the caramel-butterscotch note and the vegetal crunch. Vegetal. It was an inspired decision to put halved baby corn onto the dish, they have a unique texture. The corn in the hoon kueh also provided that note. Caramel. The caramel sauce, the caramelised corn, and the popcorn all had the caramel note that made it a sophisticated dish. The kueh was well made, and the ice cream provided the contrast in temperature. A texture-based dish (powder, ice cream, popcorn, baby corn, kueh) enlivened by those two factors.
    • 4.25/5

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  • * Buah keluak: buah keluak-chocolate ice cream, salted caramel, chocolate crumble and chilli specks, warm milk chocolate espuma
    • This needs no introduction – the most popular dessert here by far. An earthy concoction that has the hints of the bitterness of buah keluak (a natural and inspired pairing with chocolate) that is contrasted with salted caramel. An unique excellent dish that only a restaurant like this, balancing both a Singaporean tradition and and innovative ethos could come up with.
    • 5/5

Corner House | Singapore | Jan ’15 | “kiam siap”

24 Jan
  • Rating: 12/20
  • Address: E J H Corner House, Singapore Botanic Gardens, 1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569
  • Phone: +65 6469 1000
  • Price: SGD140 (USD112 at 1 SGD = 0.8 USD)
  • Value: 1/5
  • Chef: Jason Tan

 

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The first word that comes to mind for Chef Jason Tan’s cooking at Corner House is miserly (or in Singlish, kiam siap). For the privilege of paying a $18 upcharge for a starter on top of SGD98 for a 4-course tasting menu, you may have the pleasure of dining on half a cabarinero prawn, topped with two grains of caviar. You may also have the pleasure of dining on 3 small slices of foie for your second course.

Now, assuming this isn’t all cynical cost-cutting, and some of it is rooted in kitchen philosophy – I deplore this style of micro-cooking. Since Restaurant Andre is the tua tow (in many ways) in Singapore fine-dining, chefs are copying his style of micro-cooking – putting about 3 cubic inches of food on a plate and smearing it around to create a dish that’s literally and figuratively a mile wide and an inch deep.

I am starting to feel deeply that micro-cooking is a cop-out by chefs. Any ingredient, in small enough doses, can be found pleasant. In putting a hundred different dish components, on the dish, one gets with a fork a matchstick of fish, and it is decent enough… a sprinkling of black garlic soil… which is decent enough… some foam… which is decent enough, and the diner, who is left unsatisfied in his stomach, is tricked in his mind to think that the whole is a good dish, because rationally, a bunch of decent preparations must add up to a good dish. Unfortunately, the synthesis is not done on the plate (which is the job of a chef), but rather in the mind of the diner.

I want to highlight that this is not an untalented chef. Far from it. A NZ cod with vin jaune and fresh vegetables had a perfectly crisp skin. It was one of two times when the portion sizes in the meal were generous, and the crisped skin was a delicious counterpoint to the fatty cod, perfectly done. It was a great example of technique and composition, worthy of a Singapore Bocuse d’Or winner and someone with experience at Macau’s 3* Robuchon a Galera (now Robuchon au Dome). But Chef Jason Tan is going down the wrong path with Andre-style micro-cooking.

Micro-cooking is the chef’s expression at the expense of the diner’s satisfaction, who yearns for a substantial taste. The majority of customers who come to visit a micro-cooking restaurant are hit-and-run tourists, or perhaps people who will try it once. Does the chef want to cook for these hit-and-run gastro-tourists, or a more regular clientele? I speak for myself: the restaurants I like to frequent cook a limited set of dishes, and do them well. As well, if you are going to charge big-ticket prices, then your portion sizes must be equal to your prices. Either serve a lot of a little, or a little of a lot. Corner House follows the minimalist philosophy – a little of a little. The amount of Carabineros prawn  I was served (for a SGD18 surcharge) was cynically minute. It would be called an amuse-bouche at other restaurants.

Ingredients here are questionable in quality. The carabinero prawn, expensively imported from “Western Spain”, was sous-vide to the texture of mushy cardboard. It was not very flavorful as well, only possessing an anemic general prawny savoriness. (It reminded me of prawn salad I had on Singapore Airlines) The foie was also not very good. Tough and not fatty, the addition of black sesame tuile and mango sauce didn’t elevate the composition.

Why then, does Andre succeed? Two possible reasons: One, he has managed to win the publicity game, getting his restaurant highly ranked on the Worlds 50 Best and Asia’s 50 Best – this is due to him being equal parts personality and chef. Two, Andre only serves the full tasting menu, and serves 15-20 little courses. My 4 course option was culled from a full tasting menu. I would suggest that the restaurant either cooks a larger portion for the 4 courses, or eliminates the option altogether. It is a bit like Apple offering a 16GB iPhone 6. A 16GB iPhone 6 doesn’t have enough space for the full ecosystem of Apple apps, and the buyer, having paid a reasonably large sum of money, leaves dissatisfied. No one wins, Apple and 16GB iPhone owner, Jason Tan’s Corner House and his 4-course diner.

One cannot fault the service here. Gracious and complementary, the manager took my criticisms in good spirit. It was nice to be driven around in a buggy to our taxi. And the pistachio financiers at the end of the meal were good. The baguettes here were also quite good. Crusty, which is 80% of the baguette battle.

I believe Chef Jason Tan would be better off focusing his energies on creating more dishes like the cod, and not miserly “avant-garde micro-cooking. “Eh, don’t kiam siap can or not?” [1]

[1] kiam siap = (Singlish/Hokkien) stingy.


Other review:


 

2015-01-22 20.18.12 2015-01-22 20.21.02 2015-01-22 20.23.10 2015-01-22 20.29.21 2015-01-22 20.33.26 2015-01-22 20.36.58 2015-01-22 20.39.35

  • Gruyere cheese sponge, macadamia-honey biscuit.
    • Okay. 3/5

2015-01-22 20.39.48

  • Norwegian salmon sous-vide, yellow pepper coulis
    • Okay. 3.25/5

2015-01-22 20.47.53 2015-01-22 20.49.36

  • Carabinero prawn, variation of best season tomato, vintage sherry
    • Alright. 3.5/5
    • Prawn, sous-vide.Texture mushy.
    • Flavor. Anemic. The general savory mild saline available to any prawn was the dominant note.
    • Tomatoes in 3 ways, but didn’t affect the dish – (freshly sliced, basil honey lemon juice, plum juice)
    • What was on the plate was not even one whole prawn. Rather miserly.

2015-01-22 20.49.17

  • Beetroot Collection, smoked eel, 24-month Comté, horseradish, walnut and black garlic
    • The perfect expression of micro-cooking. A dish a mile wide and an inch deep
    • From what I tried, the ingredients were barely genial on their own, and any synthesis of deliciousness was not on the plate but in the mind’s eye of the diner


2015-01-22 21.04.032015-01-22 21.03.40

2015-01-22 21.07.51

 

  • Foie Gras à la Chinoise, mango duo preparation with ginger flower
    • 2.75/5
    • A disaster. Poor-quality, tough foie, discordant with mango and sesame tuile

2015-01-22 21.04.33

  • 62 degree Farm Egg, variation of oignon doux des Cevennes, noisette Crouton
    • Decent. Foam was a bit too sweet

2015-01-22 21.22.23 2015-01-22 21.26.48

  • New Zealand Cod “Crispy Scales” petit vegetables, smoked vin jaune sabayon
    • 4.75/5
    • As we excoriate the disasters, we should celebrate the excellent. A sheet of crisped scales, perfectly done, atop a generous slab of fatty cod, moist inside. This was truly delicious
    • Below, a bed of peas, carrots, cabbages, potato, and the vin jaune sabayon
    • A sprig of shiso flowers (or hanaho) gave it a refreshing taste, though it wasn’t strictly needed
    • This was similar to the crisped Amadai I had in October at JAAN, down to the composition with the sprig of hanaho. Pressed, I would say that Chef Jason Tan’s version was even better than what I had at JAAN in October, though he has the benefit of the fattier fish (cod vs amadai)

2015-01-22 21.23.07

  • Hungarian mangalitsa pork, peach, wasonbon, ginger, endives, apple gel, natural jus
    • From what I had: The crust was a bit soggy, and the elements didn’t come together,. the virtues of the meat were not improved much by cooking.

2015-01-22 21.45.36

  • Palate cleanser: Passionfruit jelly, pineapple braised in star anise, sago with cardamom, riesling, sweet basil sorbet

2015-01-22 21.54.27 2015-01-22 21.54.30 2015-01-22 21.54.43

  • My Interpretation of Kaya Toast: pandan ,coconut, gula melaka, muscovado sablé, and yuzu
    • Buckwheat tuile, Malibu rum, Normandy shortbread, hazelnut snow (yuzu meringue)
    • Not bad. The kaya was in the peripheral dots. I presume the Malibu rum was supposed to provide the kaya (coconut jam) flavor, but the chilled cream between the discs did not taste much of coconut – so the “kaya toast” effect was lost.  (4/5)

2015-01-22 21.54.36 2015-01-22 21.59.26

  • Chocolat:: Manjari, framboise, Malabar black pepper
    • The tart, rich with chocolate cream, was heavy on the digestion. Raspberry

2015-01-22 23.05.08

  • Pistachio financiers