Hippopotamus Restaurant Grill – A Fuss-free & Casual French Steakhouse

24 02 2013

As a typical university student still living with my parents, I neither cook nor do the marketing for my household needs (thankfully). That’s why I have been rather out of touch with the food costs in Singapore lately. I’m quite clueless about how much a kg of beef should cost, much less if we are talking about different cuts or breeds.

Recently however, a couple of friends and I have been organizing quite a few home barbeque parties, to our immense enjoyment. It’s probably a syndrome of getting older and lazier, where one would much prefer to hang out at a friend’s place (and decimate their alcohol stash), rather than fight against the swarms of Orchard Road. Going to town just lost it’s coolness appeal overnight. As the budget for each BBQ session might differ, we have been experimenting with different cuts of beef, consequently gaining a better appreciation for the price-quality level of beef ratio.

I was at Hippopotamus Restaurant Grill a couple of weeks back for a tasting session. It’s a French steakhouse with a huge following in France, with over 100 outlets there. While most Singaporeans perceive the typical French restaurant to give off an air of snootiness, Hippopotamus is really the opposite, a casual restaurant with a friendly ambience.

Their menu is rather varied and while they specialize in steaks, a range of Chicken, Pork and Seafood dishes are nonetheless available as well. Mains here typically come with a choice of 2 side dishes (Fries, Potato Gratin, Green Beans, Steamed Vegetables, Baked Potato, Ratatouille) and 1 accompanying sauce (BBQ, Bearnaise, Homemade Thai Chili, Stewed Shallot, Pepper).

There are several cuts of beef to choose from in Hippopotamus, which might leave one lost as to the difference between each. The Skirt Steak ($18.90++), while not as widely popular as the ribeye, sirloin or tenderloin, would be suitable for those who value flavour over texture. I guess being a restaurant specializing in steaks, Hippopotamus’s order winner is their ability to time the doneness of the steak more accurately compared to eateries like Cafe Cartel whose staff might not be as seasoned, given the wider menu range and lower turnover of steak orders over there.

The Grilled Game Hen ($21.90++) is one of their more popular items as well. Interestingly, contrary to it name, a game hen (aka Spring Chicken) does not only refer to a female. It is a young chicken, slaughtered when it is just 30 days old and is priced slightly higher than a regular chicken, given that the meat is considered more tender than regular chickens.

Skirt Steak (top left), Game Hen (middle)

I really like the Grilled King Prawns ($22.90++) which has a slightly charred flavour. A few measly prawns can hardly be a meal for a big eater though so would appreciate if a surf & turf option presents itself on the menu.

There are 2 options for Fish, the Cod Fish ($36.90++) and the Barramundi Fillet ($22.90++), both nicely grilled to derive a blanket of crispy skin. I prefer the Cod but for those who prefer a less fatty texture, go for the Barramundi. Portions are slightly underwhelming though imo.

Cod Fish

The US Pork Chops ($19.90++) was a bit too lean and unseasoned for my liking but I guess that’s where the sauces come in.

A host of desserts can be found here as well, such as the Warm Chocolate Cake ($11.90++), Roasted Pineapple ($7.90++), Lemon Meringue Pie ($10.90++), Chocolate Hazelnut Cake ($8.90++), Creme Brulee ($7.90++) and Chocolate Mousse ($7.90++).

While I found most of them run off the mill, the Chocolate Mousse did tug at my heartstrings. The bittersweet chocolate is sinfully good, making a stopover for tea here worthwhile. In fact, I think this was probably what I enjoyed the most during the tasting.

Warm Chocolate Cake ($11.90++)

Roasted Pineapple ($7.90++)

Lemon Meringue Pie ($10.90++)

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake ($8.90++)

With the exception of the Chocolate Mousse, honestly, nothing else was very much different from the standards you get of Jack’s Place or Astons. It’s food that is meant to be fuss-free and casual after all, something I might grab for a quick lunch or while waiting for a movie.

Special thanks to Hippopotamus for the invitation and organizing the tasting.

Hippopotamus Restaurant Grill

6 Raffles Boulevard, #01-204/205 Marina Square

Tel: +65 6338 5352

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Barnacles @ Rasa Sentosa – In the Running for Best Sunday Lunch Buffet

9 02 2013

Short of doing a staycation to enjoy beach resort treatment, Barnacles @ Rasa Sentosa has come up with a fantastic idea. Diners at Barnacles’ Sunday Garden Party Lunch buffet will be allowed access to the pool facilities at Rasa Sentosa, where one can just relax and enjoy the end of the week after the meal. It’s a day to be enjoyed by the whole family as activities are also organized for kids just outside the restaurant where a performer does stuff like balloon sculpting, juggling and a magic show to entertain the children, while the adults can continue indulging in the buffet spread and immerse into their conversations without any distractions.

Priced at $138++ per pax, diners get to indulge in an array of seafood (hence the name Barnacles), charcoal grilled meats, cooked dishes, an impressive French cheese platter and desserts. The buffet is made more affordable for diners who come with their kids, as one child under the age of 12 gets to dine for free with each paying adult (subsequent children will be charged $38++).

It might be a little warm in the afternoon but if it’s a cloudy day, you should definitely try sitting outdoors, which boasts a tranquil waterfront view.

The assortment of food here isn’t varied as some other buffets but they make up for it with quality.

Singapore lacks an oyster culture. Most of us harbour myopic views on what raw oysters should taste and look like, derived from our multiple experiences at the various International buffets we have been to. So when we stumble across an oyster that tastes unfamiliar, we tend to think that something is wrong with that oyster. That was my view not long ago too but it all changed after I visited Blue Water Café & Raw Bar, one of the best seafood restaurants in Vancouver. There was a selection of about 20 different species of oysters to choose from, leaving me totally lost. From the province of British Columbia alone, there were already more than 12 types of oysters on the menu, and the oyster descriptions on the menu (eg “small cup, firm flesh, light brine, lettuce-like finish”) sounded like wine notes more than anything else.

For Barnacles’ Sunday buffet, French Fine de Claire Oysters are served, which will appeal to folks who love briny, less fleshy oysters. It was fresh but I’m definitely one who prefers my oysters sweet and creamy.

Apart from oysters, there’s also Lobsters, Alaskan King Crab, poached Prawns, Periwinkle (a type of small sea snail) & Bulot (large sea snail) for seafood lovers.

Most of the cooked food are placed outdoors. Apart from the cooked lamp chops, grilled chicken and roast beef, there’s also a live BBQ station which grills your Chicken Steak, Sausages, Salmon, Prawns, Beef and Lamb ala minute.

I piled up my plate full of grilled meats and seafood, of which the ready cooked lamb was frigging awesome. Possibly one of the most tender lamb chops I have had to date, unexpected that I would experience it at a buffet. The salmon and sausage were good too, whose meat was moist. Different sauces such as the Mushroom Sauce, Brown Sauce of caramelized onions, Mint Sauce, Mustard was also provided to complement the meats.

Most buffets leave their cooked food out in the open for hours on end but Barnacles employs a different strategy. A tray might hold as little food as 6 scallops but refilled with fresh ones often, ensuring that diners always get food that is fresh and just out of the kitchen. The gesture is much appreciated and the Seared Hokkaido Scallops wrapped in Bacon was certainly one of the highlights for this buffet, worth having seconds for which I did.

The Crab cooked in Chinese Herbs was great as well and the crab meat was really sweet and delicate.

Instead of the ready cooked Bee Hoon, I would recommend going for the Risotto (choice of mushroom, shrimp or salmon but as kiasu Singaporeans, an “everything” risotto seems more likely) instead, which is made to order. I found it more delicious than most of the risottos I have had in ala carte restaurants.

The quality of the desserts on the dessert line was the most impressive one I have encountered so far at a buffet. Special mention has to go to the Apple Pie, Pavlova and Macarons. I’m sure there are other noteworthy desserts as well but I was far too stuffed by this juncture to try everything.

Warm Chocolate Cakes (no lava included)

The Pavlova (bottom of pic) is a meringue-based dessert that has a marshmellow-like core

What we see here are Macarons and not macaroons. I used to think that it was just a UK vs US spelling difference but they actually refer to different types of pastries.

The spread of 8 different types of French Cheese was simply amazing. I’m no cheese connoisseur (most of my cheese knowledge comes from Mousehunt, a Facebook game I used to play) but I guess my favourites were the milder tasting ones and one that was rum & raisin flavoured, which had a subtle saccharine flavor that goes well with the crackers.

Kids being entertained while parents go wild at the buffet line

Parents need entertainment too

For a buffet, one usually finds one or two dishes that are worth going for seconds. At Barnacles, every other item was deserving of such honour, especially the lamb chops, seared scallops, chilled seafood, dessert & cheese line.

I dislike buffets in general because I tend to overeat, crappy food at that. This time, I was glad to have overeaten yet disappointed that there wasn’t any room in me for more. It’s one of the few times I have felt this way about a buffet, so Barnacles definitely has my stamp of approval. The premium paid for this buffet…justified.

Special thanks to Rasa Sentosa and Barnacles for hosting the tasting.

Barnacles

101 Siloso Road, Rasa Sentosa

Tel: +65 6371 1966








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