Stellar @ 1-Altitude – A New Star?

29 08 2011

*This dinner was sponsored by Stellar @ 1-Altitude

I was pleasantly surprised when I received an invitation to a tasting session to Stellar @ 1-Altitude last week. This was my first time dining there and I was glad that several other food bloggers were invited as well. It’s always interesting to find out what makes food bloggers tick and their impetus for starting their food blogs in the first place.

1-Altitude is the latest venture by the One Rochester Group, which also operates its flagship gastrobar One Rochester, Coast @ 1-TwentySix and patisserie 1 Caramel (if you haven’t already found out, I hate to break the sad news to you but the outlet between Cathay and Plaza Singapura has relocated to One Rochester quite recently). Perched on level 62 of OUB Centre, be astounded by the panoramic and breathtaking 360 degree view of the Singapore CBD/Marina Bay skyline.

1-Altitude actually manages levels 61 to 63 of OUB centre, with each level catering for different functions and crowds. On level 61, 1-Altitude runs 282 and Citygolf, a sports bar and indoor golf simulator. On level 62 is the fine dining restaurant arm of 1-Altitude, Stellar. Lastly located on the top level is 1-Altitude Gallery and Bar, which is the World’s highest rooftop bar at 282m.

Stellar is helmed by Group Executive Chef Christopher Miller, who in addition to being Stellar’s head chef, also runs his own Thai eatery Sweet Salty Spicy around the Bukit Timah area. He tells us that while Stellar’s modern cuisine carries with it a high level of sophistication, Stellar aims at providing diners with a fun dining experience rather than evoking stifling and rigid fine dining rules.

While Chef Miller specializes in Modern European cuisine, Stellar’s menu isn’t limited as such. There’s food here that caters to most palates, from Japanese, fresh seafood like Sashimi and Oysters, Grilled meats, and even a Charcuterie section (cured meats) but Chef Miller made it clear that Stellar doesn’t serve fusion food.

Our tasting session started off with Stellar’s Twice Baked Gruyere Souffle. For traditionalists who believe that souffles should only be left for dessert, I bid them to try this rendition. The gruyere souffle is served alongside additional servings of 2 different melted cheese sauces (gruyere and blue cheese), meant for those who want an extra cheesy kick. The cheese sauces complemented the souffle as much, if not more, than the typical vanilla sauce to a chocolate souffle. I believe that I would have no qualms eating this for breakfast, brunch, lunch, high tea, dinner or supper 😀

The Seared Hokkaido Scallops and Octopus was a pretty sight. The octopus is cooked in a sous vide style, adding a softer texture to the normally elastic rubbery bite.

The Sashimi: Omakase Taster is an assorted tray of fresh Tuna Belly, Salmon, Tai, Hamachi, Swordfish, Scallops, Ikura, Caviar, and Surf Clams. Typically, “omakase” means entrusting your meal in the chef’s hands such that he would normally bring out the freshest or seasonal ingredients to whip up your meal. Therefore, its probable that one might not get the same types of sashimi everytime, but that’s just my guess. I found the quality and freshness of the seafood laudable given that Stellar isn’t a full fledged Japanese restaurant. After all, who can complain about Tuna Belly?

The Sushi(Spicy Tuna, Swordfish, Lobster and Salmon) was done delightfully well too. I especially liked the Swordfish Sushi (2nd row from top). In addition to the inner sushi fillings of diced swordfish, the sushi was also topped with a slice of creamy swordfish smeared with a rich mayo sauce which was subsequently seared. Really yummy.

There was a small side of lightly seared Ocean Trout and Swordfish Tataki which I found so-so.

There’s so much variety within the Charcuterie Taster that it’s hard to keep track. Apart from the 2 different types of Jamon hams (can’t remember their exact names though), there’s also a fowl terrine which I found too bitter and strong-tasting for my liking, cured sausages of duck and pork which were so-so, and a creamy foie gras parfait which was my favourite mini-item of this Charcuterie Taster.

Transiting to Mains, I harboured ambivalent feelings towards the Truffled Risotto with Poached Maine Lobster. While I liked the texture of the risotto and fresh sweetness of the lobster, I found the use of Truffle oil excessive which threatened to overwhelm the dish’s naturally mild flavours.

The Slow Roasted Suckling Pig with Iberico jamon and Fig Stuffing was pretty decent but objectively speaking, I’m just too much a fan of fat meats to be that reliable.

The Grain Fed ‘Tomahawk’ Rib Eye served with Bone Marrow is sourced from Australian cattle, which according to Chef Miller is what Australian cattle are good for (US cattle are better for their sirloin according to him). If I recall correctly, this Rib Eye was dry aged for 120 days, which is quite long. Just to recap on the similarities and differences between wet aging and dry aging, both types of aging carries with it the same purpose; to allow the beef to become more tender by allowing its natural enzymes to break down the proteins within the beef. The main difference is that for dry aging, the beef (usually of higher quality) is hung and allowed to air while for wet aging, the beef is sealed in a vacuumed plastic bag (hence retaining more water and tasting a bit more bloody). Another tidbit of info regarding food aging that I found out from Chef Miller is that aging of egg whites (for 2 weeks!) is crucial in making a light and airy souffle!

Utterly seduced by the Chocoloate Seduction, I loved every aspect of this creation, from the velvety chocolate ganache to the crunchy praline base, not to mention the Moist Chocolate Cake (much like a chocolate lava cake) at the background. I just think that while 1 chocolate cake is good, 2 is always better.

Topped with Coconut Ice Cream, I’m not an ardent fan of the Tropical Vodka Trifle, which while still passable by usual standards, was dwarfed by the other desserts.

Whenever I used to visit 1-Caramel, I never fail to order the Strawberry Shortcake which is airy and not too cloying. I was simply beaming when I saw it present among the Trio Fraise, which also comprised of Champagne Jelly and Chocolate Dipped Strawberries.

The Tropical Teaser comprised of a citrus cheesecake and Lemon Sorbet, effective as a last dessert for cleansing the palate after such a heavy meal.

While there was a mix of hits and misses, I generally enjoyed my dining experience at Stellar. After our dinner, we took a short stroll up to the rooftop bar and gallery. Having been to a few rooftop bars in Singapore like Helipad, Orgo and New Asia Bar, I believe that 1-Altitude’s ambience and view is the best of these few. Of course, I won’t be as hasty to say that it’s the best rooftop bar in Singapore, as I haven’t been to LeVel 33 or Ku De Ta etc yet.

Many thanks to the One-Rochester Group and Stellar @ 1-Altitude for their kind and gracious invitation.

Bon Appetit!

Stellar @ 1-Altitude

1 Raffles Place, Level 62 OUB Centre

Tel: +65 6438 0410

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Restaurant Ember II – My Favourite Set Lunch

19 08 2011

There’s no better way to kick off the first week of school with luncheon at my favourite restaurant in Singapore, Restaurant Ember at Hotel 1929, a boutique hotel in Outram.

Priced at $39.50++ (excluding the additional supplements for certain options such as Foie Gras), Ember’s 3-course set lunch perfectly illustrates the difference between what it means to be “affordable” and what it means to be “value for money”. I’m sure no one would call a $50 lunch affordable, but given that the set menu features dishes that are way more premium, and choices way more extensive than the usual set lunches found elsewhere, I believe Ember’s set lunch is one of the most “value for money” in Singapore.

While it caters predominantly to the older working crowd, my young friends and I were still accorded with attentive service which I gratefully appreciate. I think this is where the absence of a tipping culture in Singapore comes into play, allowing everyone to be treated more or less equally and without bias in restaurant settings.

Friend Melvin had the Pan-roasted Scallops with Parma Ham, Citrus and Tarragon Vinaigrette. During my summer break over the past 3 months, I took the opportunity to travel to Europe and the States and feasted on really jumbo fresh scallops which were probably caught on the day itself, and that has given me a whole new perspective on how scallops should taste like. Compared to those, the ones at Ember are seared well but slightly petite and not as sweet but Melvin did mention he liked the accompanying citrus sauce.

The Roasted and Poached Foie Gras with Mirin, Shoyu and Shiitake (supplemet $6) is actually the main reason why I decided to come back and will continue to do so in the future. Perhaps it’s the result of the combination poaching and roasting which makes it all the more melt-in-you-mouth than the usual pan seared foie gras. And in my opinion, the savoury shoyu and mirin complements it surprisingly better than the renditions of caramelized apple sauce, citrus sauce, raisin sauce, prune compote etc that I have tried elsewhere.

Ember also has one of the best duck confits around. The duck skin here is the most crisp from all duck confits I have tried, crackling like a keropok when chewed. The duck meat is moist and supple and the gravy, rich and sinfully heavy. Heart attack on a plate…but so very worth it.

While I’m very fond of the Marinated Cod with Black Miso, Sweet Peas & Herbed Potatoes, Samuel found its sweetness slightly too gelat, especially after eating the very savoury mirin foie gras.

Having tried the Miso Cod on my last visit, I decided to order the Pan-seared Chilean Seabass with Mushroom and Smoked Bacon Ragout, and Truffle Yuzu Butter Sauce. The fatty flesh flakes off easily and goes well with the creamy base and earthly mushrooms.  It’s hard to say which fish dish I love better though, given their stark contrast between sweet vs creamy savoury but the Chilean Seabass does make for a better picture.

I do note that ever so often, people tend to mix up Chilean Seabass (aka Antarctic Cod though less commonly used) with Sablefish (Black Cod which was used in the Miso Cod dish) and it isn’t surprising, given that both are white fatty fishes that carry a similar awesome taste. Adding on to the confusion are some restaurants that simply label their dish cod but serve Chilean Seabass. While there’s no litmus test to tell the difference between the two, I do find that Black Cod tends to be more fatty and its flesh tears apart more easily than the Chilean Seabass. At the moment, the Chilean Seabass is fast becoming extinct, so I have come across some restaurants that advocate a no Chilean Seabass policy and switching to use Black Cod instead.

My personal favourite dessert here so far is the Crispy Caramelized Pear Tart with Homemade Bailey’s Ice Cream. The layers of Filo pastry are paper thin yet not made soggy one bit from the caramelized pears, maintaining its crispiness well. Perfect even without the ice cream but who’s complaining?

For the more risk averse, play safe by ordering the Warm Valrhona Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. It’s really one of the best around.

I was having a slight cough so I ordered the less heaty Homemade Fig Cake with Grand Marnier Ice Cream. I think this replaced the Sticky Date Pudding that was previously available here, and tastes rather similar to it anyways. It’s decent, but falls short to the previous 2 desserts.

Tea (choice of several types) or Coffee is also included within the set meal 🙂

While good restaurants tend to get most dishes right, I have hardly encountered any that gets everything right. Ember is one of those rare gems and that’s why it’s my favourite restaurant, serving my favourite set lunch.

Bon Appetit!

RESTAURANT EMBER

50 KEONG SAIK ROAD, HOTEL 1929

TEL: +65 6347 1928








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