Restaurant Ember – The exception to “hara hachi bu”

22 04 2011

I came across the japanese term “hara hachi bu” recently. It’s an Okinawan tradition which means to eat only till 80% full. While it’s a good strategy for avoiding obesity and living a healthy lifestyle, I find it useful and relevant in the art of food appreciation as well. I find that the most memorable meals are the ones where hara hachi bu comes into play, where you leave a restaurant only partially full and left wanting for more. Ever so often are we guilty of attending a buffet and gorging ourselves to get our money’s worth, only to be left unsatisfied and empty at the end of the meal.

However, Restaurant Ember proves to be an exception. Filled to 110% of my bodily capacity, I still found it to be one of my most memorable meals ever.

Despite being situated in what I’d consider to be the most competitive dining environment (the Tanjong Pagar and Outram area) to be found locally, Restaurant Ember still manages to keep up a fully booked reservation list on a day to day basis, which says a lot for an eatery that has already been around for the past 8 years.

At Ember, you can rest assure that there’s no hocus pocus, smoke or pyrotechnics used to impress diners. It’s a place where ambience and service is kept to a respectful minimum, and the the focus is really on the food. I reaffirmed this fact when I received a call confirming my reservation by a staff member who had an uncouth singlish accent, a far cry from the usual dignified “ang mor” accent we are so used to hearing from western eateries.

A warm toasty focaccia kick started our meal.

We were also given a complimentary mocktail each, a promotion for patrons paying with DBS/POSB cards.

3-Course Set Lunches here are priced at $39.50++, though some dish choices (like the foie gras) do require slight additional top-ups.

Pan Seared Foie Gras with Caramelized Apples & Clove, Port & Raspberry Glaze (additional $6 supplement). Me, I’m just a sucker for foie gras. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, with the classic light tinge of sour acidity from the malic and ascorbic acid from the apples to help provide some balance for the fatty goose liver. Pity it was slightly overcooked.

Roasted and Poached Foie Gras with Mirin, Shoyu & Shitake (additional $6 supplement). One of my most enjoyable foie gras dishes ever! As opposed to the sweet-sour combi with the previous foie gras dish, this dish was pure savoury goodness.

Marinated Cod with Black Miso, Sweet Peas & Herbed Potatoes. Unlike the previous Miso Cod I had at Greenwood Fish Market, I preferred Ember’s rendition which has a cleaner and lighter taste.

Crispy Duck Leg Confit with new Potatoes, Caramelized Onion & Thyme Jus. Very impressive duck confit they conjured up here, one of the best I have had. The skin is really crisp and somehow devoid of any excess frying oil, the duck meat is moist and supple, and the gravy heavy probably from the duck fat residue but flavourful nonetheless.

Homemade Sticky Date Pudding with Grand Marnier Ice Cream. For the longest time, Sticky Date Pudding has been my favourite dessert but I think I’m starting to tire of it. The Date Pudding here oddly resembles a fruitcake in terms of taste and texture. Personally, I’d prefer it more moist and I think it would have paired better with just a plain old Vanilla Bean Ice Cream instead of the yoghurt tasting Grand Marnier Ice Cream.

Warm Valrhona Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. I’m sure this would be a hit amongst dark chocolate lovers. The Vanilla Ice Cream is also to die for.

As you can see, Ember just puts a smile on my face. It just might be is my new favourite restaurant. Bon Appetit!

RESTAURANT EMBER

50 KEONG SAIK ROAD, HOTEL 1929

TEL: +65 6347 1928





Cafe Fables and Bar Stories – A Cocktail Adventure

22 04 2011

On occasion I get the question of why I’m such a foodie and the impetus in setting up a food blog. Normally I’d brush it off with a truncated answer for simplicity’s sake, of how I gained an epiphany; that despite living in a multicultural society, my food knowledge was severely lacking and like many other Singaporeans, I found difficulty in throwing out names of 3 authentic French restaurants in Singapore. 2 years down, French is now my cuisine of choice.

However, the unabridged version of my story starts off slightly different, beginning more than 2 years ago at a bar called Klee (which sadly closed sometime ago) with ex-JC classmate CW. CW had suggested visiting Klee for drinks and it was there that we coincidentally met one of the co-founders of Hungrygowhere and his fiancee. I never learnt of the reason why they sent over a couple of drinks on his tab, and I was really quite perplexed because this almost never happens in Singapore. Of course, we returned their hospitality with our company and chatted with them for a couple of hours till closing time, never seeing them ever again. Hungrygowhere was still rather new at that time and a week later, I opened an account and used it as my primary food hunting resource, occasionally contributing some reviews to this food community myself. And this was how I got started in food writing.

So while some travel to Mecca, and others do community service in 3rd-world poverty stricken areas, there’s this small group of us who indulge in a life-long food trail. The similarity between the 3 are almost indistinguishable, but the fact is that everybody’s actually embarking on the same journey…paths of self-discovery. 

Cafe Fables by day, Bar Stories by night. Housed on the 2nd level of furniture shop “A Thousand Tales”, what I found here was a sense of homeliness, somewhere to go to after work to unwind, somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

A venture pursued by one of the partners of the now defunct Klee, Bar Stories too, functions without a drinks menu with fresh cocktails specially mixed to individual tastes. How apt it is for CW to be the one bringing me here, after introducing Klee to me as well. The cocktail culture here allows me to reminisce the good old times at Klee, the concept of having friendly mixologists interacting with guests, the concept of being able to chat with random friendly strangers across the bar, the concept of being just so un-Singaporean. Say goodbye to the dark dodgy pubs that we are so used to, Bar Stories has an open concept with a soft tune playing in the backdrop, making it easy for catching up with old friends whilst sipping the night away.

Jeff, one of the two mixologists for the night, whipped up a sweet Honeydew Mango Sake ($22++) for CW. Really awesome stuff, and it reminds me of a drink called “Nothing” which is available in Zouk and made with Melon Liquor. But then again, comparing cocktails from Bar Stories with Zouk’s is like comparing steak from Morton’s with Jack’s Place. The difference is simple yet evident. Bar Stories makes its cocktails fresh from scratch, meaning no fruit syrups or concentrates are used. This gives a fresher feel to the cocktails and lends a taste that isn’t too sharp and artificial.

For myself, I was presented with a Pomegranate Passionfruit Martini ($22++) which appeals more to those who prefer their drinks sour rather than sweet. I’m more of a sweet cocktail person but it’d still be my pleasure getting high on this.

Bar Stories, a cocktail adventure? Definitely.

Bon Appetit!

CAFE FABLES & BAR STORIES

55-57 HAJI LANE, 2ND FLOOR

TEL: +65 6298 0838








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