La Maison Fatien – Past its Prime

31 08 2014

When French bistro La Maison Fatien first opened shop over 2 years ago, I remember how hard it was to even secure reservations. The food was great then and the setting dim and intimate, especially on the 2nd floor. So when I found out that Amex Platinum card users could get a 50% discount off ala carte items here (more details below), I jumped at the opportunity, heading down for dinner after work on a Tuesday night.

Dinner started off with a complimentary amuse bouche of what I assumed to be Pork Rillette. Didn’t really enjoy it because the fat tasted somewhat stale and left an unpleasant aftertaste. The Fatien family actually runs a wine merchant business back in Burgundy, France, so we ordered a carafe of their Pinot Noir ($68++), which equates to about 2.5-3 glasses. Sadly, booze is relatively pricey here and is not applicable for the Amex card discount.

Almost identical to the one at Stellar @ 1-Altitude was the homemade Twice-baked Cheese Souffle with Baby Apple, Gruyere Sauce and Mesclun Salad ($27++). Crisp on the outside, puffy on the inside, this was certainly the highlight of our night.

Decided to err on the side of caution and stick to a French staple, the Pan-seared Foie Gras on Brioche served with Gastrique Glazed, Apple Compote, Mesclun Salad and Nuts ($27++). Unfortunately, the foie gras was overcooked and the exterior wasn’t crisp enough either. The apple compote also lacked the tartness required to complement the liver.

The mains failed to impress as the Char-grilled Pork Rack with Lentils, Glazed Vegetables, Onion Fondue and Orange Balsamic Sauce ($36++) lacked character and flavour. The Crispy Skin Duck Confit with homemade Celeriac Mash, Fine Beans and Duck Jus ($33++) fared slightly better but better executions can be easily found elsewhere.

However, I did like our side order of the Truffle Fries ($10++). The cut of the fries was somewhere in between shoe string and chunky, so you really get the best of both worlds, thick enough to get a nice bite but narrow enough to get sufficient crisp on the exterior.

Ended our meal with a pleasant but unmemorable order of Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce ($24++). The portion was huge and meant for sharing evidently. With more misses than hits, I’m inclined to believe that La Maison Fatien has past its prime. A friend mentioned to me that there has been a reshuffling in their staff recently and this might explain why our recent experience was so different from two years back.

To shed some light on Amex dining promotions, Amex Platinum Card holders are currently offered free memberships to two dining programs, the Classic Far Card Membership and the Palate Program. Under these two programs, card holders get the opportunity to enjoy significant discounts at over 80 restaurants and bars, such as Jaan, Mikuni, Prego, Forlino and il Lido just to name a few. Over and above the above two mentioned programs, card users will also get additional dining benefits under the “Platinum Private Deals”. Of course, terms and conditions apply. More details on the two dining programs are listed below:

palate card
 
Far card

 

In addition, from now till 9 November, 2014, Platinum card members will also get the chance to be one of five lucky winners daily to win $100 worth of Tunglok dining vouchers for the Monday-Saturday draws and $100 worth of Fairmount dining vouchers for the Sunday draws. Each receipt above $50 earns card users 1 chance to win, with doubling of chances for receipts from any The Far Card or Palate establishment.

This meal was sponsored by Amex.





The Flying Squirrel – The Unlikely Chirashi

23 06 2014

He used to be known as Mr Siva, a well-liked PE teacher from Raffles Junior College. Now he is better known as Rai of the singer-songwriting duo Jack and Rai. Multi-talented and adventurous these two are, as they (together with Jack’s wife Angelina) took a leap into local F&B scene early last year by establishing  a modern Japanese restaurant named The Flying Squirrel.

On the menu, conventional Japanese options such as the Chirashi, Sushi and Curry Rice appear next to less traditional options such as the Foie Gras Aglio Olio and Seafood Eggplant Gratin, immediately triggering an alarm in my head. Could such a place really deliver on a decent Chirashi or Sushi?

The answer is a resounding yes. For $25+, the TFS Chirashi was of extremely good value, comprising of slices of Salmon, Tuna, Swordfish, Sweet Shrimp, Scallop, Ikura, Octopus, Tamago and an entire Anago (saltwater eel) over a bed of pearly rice.

Another alternative is the Salmon & Ikura Chirashi ($20+). Again, the eatery is rather generous with the salmon slices and roe.

The Miso Gindara or Grilled Black Cod ($26+) we had was delicious too as it wasn’t too salty and retained some smokiness, though the portion doesn’t fill you up as much as the chirashi.

Given that it was my first day at work in the Tanjong Pagar area today, I returned for a lunch visit. This time, I tried the Summer Chirashi Bento ($25+), only available during lunch time. The main difference between the lunch chirashi and the TFS Chirashi is that the lunch Summer Chirashi Bento uses diced sashimi instead of slices (think along the lines of bara chirashi) and does not include the higher value items of shrimp, scallops or anago to my dismay. However, the bento does make up for it with 3 pieces of fried chicken karaage, salad and fruits. In my humble opinion, ultimately I still derived greater satisfaction from the TFS Chirashi.

As the restaurant is rather small, seating no more than 20 people by my estimates, hence reservations are encouraged.

The Flying Squirrel

92 Amoy Street, #01-02

Tel: +65 6226 2203

Website: http://www.theflyingsquirrel.com.sg/





Latteria Mozzarella Bar – For Cheese Lovers

19 12 2012

Compared to the Chinese, the Italians sure love to complicate things. When ordering bak chor mee (minced meat noodles), we state whether we want mee pok or mee kia, but when an Italian guy orders pasta, he will state whether he wants linguine, spaghetti, tagliatelle, penne or fettuccine and so on. Growing up, I have encountered so many instances where I have felt lost and bewildered staring at the menu of an Italian restaurant, wondering what the words meant.

Pompous as many Singaporeans are, I strutted in confidently to Latteria Mozzarella Bar, smirking that the days of being an “unseasoned” diner was now long behind me. However, a glance at the menu knocked me off my high horse immediately. To think there are over 10 different variants of mozzarella coming in differing shapes, size and density, each with a unique name! Lucky for me, a glossary was provided on the menu to explain each one.

Latteria Mozzarella Bar is a relatively new place just over a year old if I’m not mistaken but the local food scene is evolving so fast  that one can hardly distinguish the definition of new anymore.

Choice of indoor and outdoor seating is available and my party chose the rustic indoor seats given our affinity with air conditioning. Based on observation though, outdoor seats tend to be more popular, especially with the expat crowd, which forms a major clientele for Latteria.

The good thing about Latteria is that food portions are ideal for sharing.

We started off with a Fresh Burrata ($30++). Burrata means “Buttered” in Italian, and is one of my favourite appetizers for Italian meals. It’s made such that a shell of mozzarella encases a rich core of mozzarella and cream. The one here was very decent with a density that was just right, complementing the sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes and rocket leaves well.

The Nodini Pugliesi, Parma Prosciutto ($22++) is also worth trying. Nodini Pugliesi (hiding under the parma ham) are little marshmallow-sized balls of mozzarella that are more dense that Burrata and given the mild-tasting nature of mozzarella, it helps to buffer against the saltiness of parma ham well.

Despite being an Italian joint, I actually found most the meat mains a lot more stellar than the risottos and pastas, the Slow Roasted Lamb Shanks, Chickpeas & Red Wine Casserole ($30++) being such an example. Devoid of gaminess and a fork tender texture sealed the deal. Portions were super generous as we got 2 shanks.

The Linguine Vongole ($25++) was the best pasta dish of our meal. The white wine sauce is a little different here from the usual renditions as some cheese had been added to the white wine base, giving an extra dimension of creamy flavours in addition to the bittersweet flavours of clams.

I would recommend avoiding the Oregano Risotto ($25++), which I think is really yellow due to the use of pumpkin squash. It was really bland, not sweet nor cheesy and if not for the gravy from the lamb shank which I paired the risotto with, it would have been highly unpalatable.

What surprised me most was the Tagliata-style Sirloin ($35++). Done perfectly to medium rare, the quality of the sirloin far exceeded what I had expected given the price range, with visible light marbling and tasty oils oozing with each bite.

The Truffle and Smoked Mozzarella Risotto ($25++) was another let down, as it lacked cheesiness and was bland as well.

When the Porcini and burrata pasta bake ($25++) arrived, my friends jested that it looked like baked pasta from pasta mania. They weren’t that far off though, as the quality of the cheese was probably the main distinguishing factor.

Similar to the Pasta Bake, but way most aesthetically pleasing was the Mac & Cheese ($25++), which was served in a hollowed out pumpkin.

The Tiramisu ($15++) is definitely meant to be shared. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it can easily satisfy dessert cravings for 3-4 pax easily. Taste-wise, it’s rather run of the mill, but with brownie points awarded for the very smooth mascarpone.

As many hits as there were misses, Latteria failed to leave much of an impression apart from the laudable meat dishes.

Latteria Mozzarella Bar

40 Duxton Hill

Tel: +65 6866 1988





Bistro Soori – Where French Meets Japanese

3 07 2012

Bistro Soori. Don’t be mistaken, it’s no Korean joint. It serves up an array of fusion dishes, drawing mainly from French and Japanese influences. I would describe its furnishing as chic, modern yet homely, reminiscent of a showroom at a condominium launch.

Marinated Angel Hair Pasta with Avruga & Seaweed ($17++). The pasta is coated lightly with a creamy sauce, with a little brininess coming from the caviar and seaweed. My main gripe is that the portion is quite tiny.

The reasons I love French cuisine is because the food is rich (and artery clogging). So if you are into French as well, I’m assuming that animal fats isn’t an issue for you and even if it is, I’d still insist you try the Slow Roasted Pork Belly, Pumpkin, Frisse, Pumpkin Seed, Yuzu Gastrique ($18++).

There’s a lot of bombastic terms in this dish name so let’s break it down a little into bite-sized pieces. Frisse is the name of the type of lettuce used (the frizzy kind) while “Gastrique is caramelized sugar, deglazed with vinegar, used as a flavoring for sauces. Nowadays, the term is frequently used to refer to any thus-flavored sauce itself, e.g. citrus gastrique, mango gastrique” (Source: Wikipedia).

This is definitely one of the best pork belly dishes I have had in recent memory and I loath how it is available only in starter-sized portions. The best thing about this dish is the fats. It doesn’t come across as the soft and wobbly kind but rather, gives off a firmer mildly crisp finish when you bite into it, which implodes with a concentrated accumulation of flavor.

I like the Cured Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Braised Red Cabbage, Grain Mustard, Golden Raisin, Pear ($33++). I love how the core of the tender tenderloin manages to retain a light pink hue. I love it even more that the curing process was executed well, with a subtle salty flavour being infused evenly throughout the meat. Most of the time, one encounters a cured meat that leaves you cringing from the excessive salt used but this one is different, leaving sufficient breathing room to appreciate the accompanying condiments as well.

Throw in the words uni and scallops (foie gras too!) in any dish and you’d be sure to pique my interest. Not that I’m complaining but somehow, I have noticed that sea urchin (aka uni) has been making guest appearances in modern french cuisine, such as the Uni Tagliolini at Pamplemousse, a restaurant in Dempsey that specializes in contemporary French.

That said, I wasn’t impressed with the Uni, Scallop, Prawn, Risotto, Yuzu, Thai Basil ($35++). The rice was considerably overcooked in my opinion, hence the texture failed to retain a slight firmness and bite and was on the mushy side instead. In addition, I didn’t think that the citrus yuzu was a good complement to the savoury seafood and it’s distinct flavour musked the more delicate flavours from the uni. No complaints about the execution of the seafood components though!

My favourite dish of the night was the Brown Butter Maine Lobster, Tomato, Tamarind, Thai Basil, Fennel ($42++). I wasn’t harbouring high expectations initially since I perceive Maine Lobster as a cheap lobster species. It was so easily available when I was at Canada and the States last summer, being sold in a Brooklyn flea market in “lobster buns” going at US$12 a pop, and the amount lobster meat given was really generous. Based on my estimation, I got about half a lobster in 1 hot dog sized bun. I even managed to get cooked live whole Maine lobsters in Granville, Vancouver during Canada’s National Day for C$14. Crazy affordable.

For the ones at Bistro Soori, it’s awesome not just because the lightly charred lobster flesh is fresh and springy, but also because of the tamarind butter sauce. Everything just tastes so good in butter, but add in crab shells to simmer with, what you get is a very concentrated crab bisque that really complements the sweetness of the maine lobster. Friend J ate a huge chunk of lobster in one mouthful and after that, gave a look of despondence. That was the end of her portion, a portion she had failed to thoroughly enjoy.

Duck Leg Confit, Fried Apple Puree, Fig, Parma Ham ($39++). The deboned duck thigh was a little too dry for my liking but taste-wise it was ok, especially with a dab of sweet apple puree followed by a dab of the vinaigrette, a good mix of sweet, savoury and tangy.

2 minutes before serving the Pandan Souffle with Strawberry Compote ($14++), the wait staff in charge of our table walked over and told me, “you might want to get your camera ready, the souffle will start sinking after half a minute”. I was quite pleased he bothered to show such care and concern, thumbs up for the service!

It is no wonder this is Bistro Soori’s most prized dessert. The souffle is light as air but as the wait staff said, it sank rather quickly. No matter, we polished it off in a matter of seconds anyway.

The Araguani Dark Chocolate Cake, Raspberry Sauce with Vanilla Ice Cream ($14++) was a run of the mill chocolate fondant.

My least favourite dessert was the Almond Milk Panna Cotta, Blueberry Gastrique, Lemon Grass Syrup ($14++). The panna cotta was a little lumpy and not as rich as I would have liked.

Overall, truly a wonderful experience, from the service, food to ambience.

Bistro Soori

2 Teck Lim Road

Tel: +65 6438 3802





Hanayoshi – A Lesson on Wagyu that I didn’t get to Eat

26 06 2012

It has been almost a year since I last met up with E but as they always say, better late than never. It was a friendship fostered in the days when revelry was the in thing, where both of us had the luxury of time and energy to groove on the mambo dance floor, a hobby that we used to share.

I picked Hanayoshi as our dinner spot. After all, online reviews were promising and the ability to survive in the competitive dining district of Tanjong Pagar/Outram already says quite a bit in itself. It was surprisingly quiet on this Saturday night though, with only 2 other tables being occupied excluding E and myself.

A word of advice from me. Make reservations to sit at the counter on the ground floor rather than on the 2nd floor. Firstly, you get a great view of the chef’s masterful cutting techniques and will probably get the chance to interact with the master during the meal, but most importantly, you also get to avoid the cramped 2nd level. The tables are packed so awfully close to one another in an enclosed area such that private conversations aren’t at all private. So there goes all the socially inappropriate jokes you could have cracked during the course of the meal, making one feel constipated holding so much crap in.

“Age” literally means deep-fried while “dashi” is a japanese soup stock, often made by simmering ingredients such as kelp, fish parts or mushrooms. Put together, an Agedashi Tofu simply refers to Fried Tofu in Dashi Sauce. No complaints about the ones here, but no glowing comments either. It’s just too standard fare that you already know what to expect.

We shared a serving of the Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab too which was decent but not amazing, as the crab meat tasted a bit flat, while the seasoning was on the salty side.

I really wanted to try the Wagyu and Sashimi Set but found out that they do not serve set meals during dinner. Dang, it would have been quite a steal for $42++. Yea, there’s the option of ordering a grilled piece of Wagyu but at $90 (if I recall correctly), it’s not quite as tempting. Why the stark difference in price you ask? Well, not all Wagyu are equal, some are more equal than others and I postulate that the $90 ones are just a tad more equal. So lesson to learn is not to swoon straight away when you see the words Wagyu and probe a little deeper into its marble score. Wagyu originated from Japan and just like every other Asian country, Asians love competition, scores and grades. As such, Wagyu is scored with a number between 1 to 12 based on factors such as the extent of marbling and colour of the meat, with 12 being the most premium. As a general guide, scores of 6 and above are already considered to be relatively good cuts of Wagyu. For the $90 cut of Wagyu here, the menu states it scores a 12. Time to swoon folks.

However, still being a student does have its limitations and I had to rein myself in, ordering the Chirashi ($45++) instead. Quite a good spread of fresh seafood like salmon, tuna, kingfish, swordfish, shrimp, uni and ikura but missing my favourite scallops :(

E got herself the Udon Noodles in Hotpot and commented she could make it at home. There wasn’t any reason to doubt her. After all, she’s one of the 2 co-founders of Strictly Pancakes, Singapore’s first dedicated pancake cafe. Go support her shop if you can! Simple as it might seem, I have had some hotpots that would be difficult to replicate at home given the flavourful stock used. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t say that this is one of them as it fades into mediocrity.

Given all the hype from the online community, I admit I expected better. The Chirashi is also giving me an Aoki craving.

Hanayoshi

21 Duxton Road

Tel: +65 6225 5567





The Plain – For that Simple Unpretentious Brunch

24 01 2012

A cafe’s name often speaks volumes about its history and concept. For The Plain, it seems that the owners named it as such after much thought. Location seems to be the main driver behind this decision, with The Plain’s location near Duxton Plain Park. Concept was the other driving factor, with the owner’s intention of setting up a cafe that is as plain as possible; simple and easily understood without the gimmicks. A minimalistic cafe where one could come in for a casual cuppa, coffee or sandwich.

There’s just so few brunch places around nowadays that eludes the super chillax uncommercialized feel like The Plain does. I’d be lying if I said cafes like Wild Honey, Epicurious and Spruce are like that too. Somehow, they come across as trendier, with a see and be seen vibe to it, where you actually end up dressing up for a simple brunch. On the other hand, I’d be entirely comfortable dropping by The Plain in my shorts and flip flops.

There’s nothing distinctly special about the food here. The food menu is quite limited and the items can be easily prepared at home. For example, the Darling’s Eggs ($12), “Poached Egg with Ham, Cheese and Roma Tomatoes on Sourdough Toast”, can be easily replicated. Seriously, poaching eggs isn’t that difficult! Normally, it’s the Hollandaise Sauce that comes along with it that’s the problem but The Plain keeps it simple by using melted cheese instead.

My personal preference veers to the Dean’s Breakfast ($11), “Poached Eggs with Melted Cheese & Vegemite on Sourdough Toast”. This is my first time eating vegemite, a yeast extract that is supposedly nutritious. I thought it went rather well with the toasted sourdough, intensifying the flavour of the melted cheese. My only quibble was that the eggs were noticeably over-poached so the yolk was solid instead of runny. That definitely can be worked on.

HH and JH shared an Iced Chocolate but I didn’t get to try it.

Iced Chocolate ($5.50)

The Plain does their coffees well. T got a Cappuccino (butter cookies on the side were made by T’s gf and meant for decorative purposes only and not served with the coffee) which he said was pretty good.

For myself, I got a Latte which was quite fragrant and smooth with the right thickness (“gao-ness”).

While I normally emphasize on the food, I think The Plain is just one of the few places where I can bear to leave critical food-related judgements behind (not that there are many) and soak in the ambience instead. It does help that the staff are super approachable and really treat their customers as they would their friends.

PS: Currently, I’m embarking on a pet project to identify Singapore’s best 5 brunch places so you’d probably see more brunch posts coming up shortly.

Bon Appetit!

The Plain

50 Craig Road

Tel: +65 6225 4387





L’Entrecote – You don’t need Wagyu for good Steak

22 12 2011

One problem I find when dining out is that sometimes there are just too many choices available on the menu that I’m left overly spoilt for choice, not knowing what exactly does the restaurant specialize in. Often, I resort to simply asking the restaurant staff for their personal recommendations to facilitate my decision making process. If this is what frustrates you often, L’Entrecote might just be the place for you!

The dining concept at L’Entrecote is simple. They offer you the best of what they do – the Entrecote Steak ($29++), drizzled in a fiercely guarded secret butter-based sauce with a free-flow of Crisp Golden Shoestring Fries & Salad and complemented with a complimentary glass of their hand picked red wine. The only decision left to the diner is whether or not to order any appetizers and/or desserts.

We ordered our steaks medium rare and it was done as such. While the steak wasn’t marbled, it is cooked in a fashion that enables you to enjoy it lean, with a texture resembling that of a slab of lightly seared tuna. The steak is served as 2 portions, possibly to allow the 2nd portion to be kept warmed before it is finally served, so what is seen below is just the 1st portion (about 60% of the actual amount of steak)

So for that affordable steak meal, do try out L’Entrecote. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Bon Appetit!

L’Entrecote

36 Duxton Hill

Tel: +65 6238 5700








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