Savour 2013 – Nespresso Mixologist Session Preview

28 03 2013

Savour 2013, one of Singapore’s most highly anticipated annual food events, will be held from 11-14 April. As a presenting partner and sponsor, Nespresso will be holding classes again this year, which Savour participants can sign up for during the event. If you had participated in their class sessions during Savour 2012, you would have been introduced to concepts like what makes a good espresso, proper espresso etiquette and the differences between the different Nespresso capsule flavours.

From the recent preview session that I attended, it’s fair to say that this year’s Nespresso class sessions promise to be equally educational and fun, with a focus on letting participants gain first-hand experience on concocting an array of espresso-based derivative drinks. Below is what I went through for the preview and what potential participants can expect to see at Savour 2013.

The folks from Nespresso kindly prepared some canapes before we officially kicked off the class. Though they weren’t the highlight of the preview, snapping food pictures just comes so naturally for me.

Before we started off with the hands-on concoctions, we had a brief refresher on espresso etiquette and the ritual to appreciate a good cup of espresso.

We were then given a demonstration with explanation on how to create 3 different drinks (a Rose Flavoured Cappuccino, a Coconut Flavoured Mocha and an alcoholic Caipiroska Coffee Cocktail) and were given free reign to recreate these drinks under the friendly supervision of our hosts.

Our workstations

Our workstations

Cappuccino a la Rose aka Cappuccino Bandung

Layered Coconut Mocha

Caipiroska Coffee Cocktail

My general feel is that while Singaporeans guzzle coffee as much as they do water, only a minority of us truly appreciate it. So do take the opportunity to sign up for this class or any other classes offered at Savour, especially since there’s complimentary access to them (on a first come first serve basis)!





Michelangelo’s – 17 Years Young and Counting

25 03 2013

With the rapid succession of comings and goings in the Singapore food scene, few establishments can boost about having a 17-year track record like Michelangelo’s. Even its next door sister restaurant Original Sin has been around for 14 years. To  be in business for that long, they had to be doing something right, right?

While some eateries have centralized kitchens to save cost, Michelangelo’s takes it to a whole different level with their wine cellar. Many people have commented about their extensive wine list and to hoard such a range, the restaurant group actually owns a semi-detached house just across the restaurant. So, don’t be surprised if you suddenly see the sommelier walking across the road and coming back with a bottle of wine. He didn’t just run to NTUC to get it.

The Carpaccio di Manzo ($22++), “Beef tenderloin, arugula, Parmesan, truffle oil”, is a safe choice, unless you aren’t a fan of raw beef.

The Caprese alla Michel ($22++), “Oven-baked portobello mushroom, mozzarella, tomatoes, salami chips”, was a tad boring. While I love the idea of salami chips (think of it as thinly sliced deep fried luncheon meat), the dish in its entirety seems like something I could whip up at home rather easily and really doesn’t justify the price tag in my view.

We were all taken by the Risotto al Fungi ($24++), “Confit of pork belly, forest mushroom, white wine, Parmesan”. The texture of the risotto was perfect to me, especially since I prefer it on the wet side with the rice grains not overly chewy. I detected the use of some truffle oil as well, which certainly enhanced the savoury cheesiness of the risotto. However, while the dish was really tasty on the first bite, the law of diminishing returns quickly set in, as subsequent mouthfuls tasted increasingly salty and the cheesiness exceedingly cloying for a single person to bear. Now that I think of it, my guess to why the risotto felt increasing salty is because the briny pork belly had a higher probability to sink to the base of the dish. My advice is to share this amongst 3 people for an optimal experience.

My favourite was the Penne Sambuca e Gamberi ($24++), “Prawns, semi-dried tomatoes, rose cream sauce, 50ml Italian Sambuca”. The tanginess of the tomatoes was what caught my attention first. Not as overwhelmingly tangy as the usual tomato-based pasta due to the addition of rose cream. Instead, what I felt was a light fiery aftertaste. Initially I thought I had bitten into some chilis but soon realized it was the Sambuca, a sweet flamable liquer that forms the base of a Flaming Lamborghini. Thumbs up for the progression of flavours.

The Tuscan Rosticciana ($34++), “Full rack of Tuscan style grilled pork rib”, is suitable for those who love their ribs with a little bit of bite, instead of fall off the bone tender. Personally, I’m a fan of the latter but still had an enjoyable time gnawing around the bones. The portion is rather huge so again, sharing is recommended!

As one of my favourite desserts, I never fail to try out a Sticky Date Pudding ($12++) if it’s on the menu. The one here is competently done and just a little less dense than a fruit cake. The Vanilla Ice Cream is of a good quality too and pairs well with the warm pudding that is drenched in sweet butterscotch sauce.

While I had some trouble finishing the Tiramisu ($12++) at Michelangelo’s sister restaurant Original Sin, the one here is clearly lighter in both the espresso flavours and consistency of the sponge cake. I also like how the sponge isn’t soggy and goes down the palate easily.

While some dishes bordered on mediocrity like the Portobello Mushroom and Ribs, no dishes I tried left negative impressions and I thought dishes like the Penne Sambuca really shone.

Special Thanks to Michelangelo’s for hosting this lunch tasting!

Michelangelo’s

Blk 44 Jalan Merah Saga, #01-60 Chip Bee Gardens Holland Village

Tel: +65 6475 9069





Equinox @ Swissotel – Restaurant Week Lunch

21 03 2013

It’s Restaurant Week again and as usual, I went into a rabid booking frenzy when seats were released. It’s not like I have the time to eat 4 Restaurant Week meals but guess I’m still a true blue Singaporean at heart, scared to lose out when there’s a queue. So while I had rather hard-to-get reservations at Basilico, Brasserie les Savuers and Keystone Restaurant over the course of the week, I had to drop them all, leaving me with just a sole lunch date at the highly acclaimed Equinox @ Swissotel.

Just a bit of advice from me. While the goal of Restaurant Week is to allow would-be diners to sample restaurants’ offerings at more affordable prices, not all restaurant week menus are value for money, so it pays to do some basic research first. For example during the Oct 2012 installment of restaurant week, I actually noted a restaurant that charged $40++ for their restaurant week lunch menu, which was just a truncated version of their normal set lunch menu, meaning diners had to pay more for less choices of appetizers, mains and desserts! Thankfully, that same restaurant isn’t guilty of that this time around (but that’s because they increased the price of their normal set lunch).

Equinox is probably one of the more value for money restaurant participants for restaurant week as the restaurant week menu ($40++) doesn’t deviate much from their usual set lunch ($59++). Their lunch menu comes in the form of a semi-buffet, meaning that appetizers and desserts are buffet style while diners can order 1 main (from 3 choices) off the menu.

Given that my expectations of the buffet was along the lines of a salad bar in Pizza Hut (I do exaggerate sometimes), I was pleasantly surprised by the spread. There were appetizers like Shrimp Cocktail, Cold cuts, Proscuitto, Mediterranean dips like Hummus and Baba Ganoush, Smoked Salmon, Roast Duck Salad, Chilled Seafood (Fresh Oysters, Chilled Crabs, Clams, Mussels & Prawns), Sashimi (Salmon & Tuna), Assorted Sushi (featuring interesting ones like Hokkigai aka Surf Clam Sushi and Herring Sashimi) and unlike some buffets where the food is left in the open for long periods of time, I noticed that food refills here were carried out fairly regularly which is a good sign.

The dessert and cheese line was pretty decent too. Apart from an assortment of cakes, there’s also the chocolate fondue fountain and Ice Cream!

The sushi with bright yellow roe at the bottom of the plate is a Herring Sashimi, something not so commonly found at buffets.

M liked the Watermelon with Feta (plated on the small saucer below) so much that she took 5 servings of it.

There were 3 choices of mains available from the restaurant week lunch menu.

M got the vegetarian option of Wild Mushroom Raviolo with Vegetable Linguine & Mushroom Dressing. Raviolo is simply an oversized Ravioli and this one was filled almost entirely with Mushrooms that tasted excruciatingly sour from the excessive use of vinegar. The faux linguine made from grated vegetables didn’t help alleviate much of M’s suffering either.

I didn’t try the Pan-seared Barramundi with Sauteed Green Beans, Shitake Mushrooms & Herb Broth but G didn’t have any complaints about it.

For myself, the choice of main was a simple one, the Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Curried Sweet Potato, Roast Onion & Zucchini in Cider Sauce. It was the most unhealthy dish I could find on the menu and going by my assumption of equivalent exchange, this would prove to be the most tasty dish.

While it’s probably the best imo of the 3 mains available, it fails to impress, falling short by quite a bit relative to some of the Roasted Pork Bellies I have had. The meat wasn’t as tender as expected and slightly on the dry side. Didn’t favour the mash either since it was more chunky than smooth and the curry flavour didn’t complement the pork well.

For good roasted pork bellies, try Skyve Elementary Bistro & Bar (which does it sous vide style) or Ember Restaurant (my favourite place for set lunch).

Just for restaurant week, diners can also opt to add on a Pan-seared Foie Gras for an additional $10, which I did. It didn’t turn out too well though as it was unsalted (intentionally as I clarified later) and overcooked, which saddened me a little especially since it was M’s first time trying Foie Gras and I always believed that your first time is supposed to be special. Shall bring her to somewhere with decent foie gras next time to atone for this atrocity.

Sadly the pretty desserts didn’t taste as good as they looked. The more palatable ones include the Creme Brulee and the light Ivory Dome White Chocolate Cake.

Coffee/tea is included within the set lunch and Equinox uses TWG tea in case you are wondering.

I guess word on the street is right. Food doesn’t seem to be the main draw of Equinox. The experience of dining 70 floors up with a panoramic view of the Marina area however, is another story.

Equinox

2 Stamford Road, Level 70 Swissotel The Stamford

Tel: +65 6837 3322





Original Sin – Going Vegetarian for Once

12 03 2013

While I’d like to think myself as a rather adventurous foodie, I always chose to steer away from one particular type of cuisine; vegetarian. I guess the perception that vegetables taste bad still holds true for most people. For me at least, my daily intake of vegetables is purely for the sole purpose of playing the role of roughage. My recent visit to Original Sin however did make rethink the validity of such a loosely accepted notion.

Having been around for the past 14 years, Original Sin has established itself as one of the most well-known vegetarian eateries around. It offers Mediterranean cuisine that surprisingly rivals even non-vegetarian Mediterranean restaurants I have been to in both tastiness and quality.

We started off with the Mezze Platter ($22++), which is a typical Middle Eastern selection of dips, in this case consisting of Hummus (a dip made from chickpea), pumpkin & carrot dip, Baba Ganoush (an eggplant dip), Yogurt tzatziki, Falafal balls (A deep fried patty made from chickpea), served with pita bread. On the whole, it was pretty good, especially the Baba Ganoush that had a heavier than usual garlicky taste that I liked and the pita bread which was served freshly baked and crisp.

The Magic Mushroom ($18++) was a baked Portobello mushroom with ricotta cheese, spinach, pesto, topped with a tomato basil sauce and mozzarella. It came across as more Italian than Mediterranean but still made for a simple delightful starter.

The pan fried Haloumi ($18++) served with salad greens, roasted capsicum, lentils, cucumber and mint salad was my favourite dish of the meal. Haloumi is a type of Cheese and tasted similar to savoury fried fish roe, both in terms of taste and texture and went well with the starchy lentils.

For Mains, we had the Vegetable Tandoori ($26++), which was a dish of char-grilled button mushroom, brinjal, capsicum, onion and tofu marinated in tandoori spices served with yoghurt, mango chutney and rice. Pretty decent with a moderate spice level.

The Bosco Misto ($26++) was very tasty as well. It was basically spinach, feta and tofu patties, coated with crushed almonds and sesame seeds, served with asparagus in a button mushroom plum sauce. The patties reminded me of flavourful crispy croquettes and I loved it.

My least favourite was the Capsicum Quinoa ($26++), or roasted capsicum stuffed with spiced quinoa, carrot, chickpea and mint with tzatiki, pickled grape, onion, cherry tomato and olive salad. Compared to the other mains, the flavours from this dish was a lot more subdued, with the yoghurt more or less drowning out most of the other flavours. Having had the tzatiki from the mezza platter earlier on, this felt rather boring.

The Hazelnut Chocolate Cake ($12++) came highly recommended from our host. It was a good recommendation indeed and despite using dark chocolate, the cake boasted a familiar taste that I likened to Kinder Bueno, probably because of the crispy hazelnut base that felt similar to the crunch you get when you bite into a Kinder Bueno.

The Tiramisu ($12++) didn’t fare quite as well. It wasn’t unpalatable but personally, I found the bitterness accruing from the coffee to be a little too intense.

The meal felt totally atypical for a vegetarian meal. I was surprisingly stuffed and honestly if I had a blindfold on, it would have been difficult to tell that no meat was used in the making of the meal with the highly interactive textures and flavours of the various ingredients used. I guess for once, I wouldn’t mind going vegetarian.

Special thanks to Original Sin for the invitation and hosting the meal.

Original Sin

43 Jalan Merah Saga, #01-62

Tel: +65 6475 5605





1-TwentySix @ East Coast Park – Think Timbre, with Class

8 03 2013

I first came to know of 1-TwentySix about 3 years back. It was New Year’s Eve then and instead of diving into the mosh pit called The Padang to catch the fireworks display, my friends and I headed down to East Coast Park instead. Where we seated ourselves on the beach, background music was playing to the tunes of Rick Astley, Bananarama and Human League, music legends of days long past. As a mambo jambo fan, it inevitably caught my attention and I was soon drawn to the source of the commotion, finding myself at the doorstep of 1-TwentySix.

They were hosting their New Year party and the place was packed with well-heeled revelers adorned in cocktail dresses and suave outfits, more than occasionally clinking their slender champagne glasses to foster in the new year or more likely, to find an excuse to get wasted. And yes, that lifestyle called to me.

There’s 2 seating areas to 1-TwentySix; the sheltered restaurant area that caters for semi fine-dining meals that are identical to what is available at 1-Rochester and the al fresco area that serves a separate newly launched tapas menu, which explains the rationale for this tasting invitation.

I was there on a Friday night and was entertained by resident band EJS and their impressive array of acoustic tunes, which turned the outdoor restaurant setting into a rather ideal place to just catch up with friends over a cocktail or beer with some tapas.

It seems that the idea of tapas has been catching on in Singapore lately with the openings of relatively new establishments such as Kaixo, Binomio, Los Primos and not to mention the highly hyped about Esquina all holing themselves around the Tanjong Pagar vicinity. 1-TwentySix’s tapas menu proved to be slightly different from the above said Spanish tapas joints though, as the tapas items here weren’t limited to simply Spanish finger food but played on several cuisines like French and Italian as well.

The Tapas Platter ($42++), comprised of Deep Fried Salt & Pepper Squid, Gambas pil pil (aka Prawns in Chili & Garlic), Potato Bravas, Spicy Meatballs and Chorizo with Garbanzo Bean, all very traditional Spanish tapas dishes but nothing that came across as overly exciting.

I much preferred the The Charcuterie Platter ($28++), consisting of Jamon Serrano, Proscuitto de Parma and Contechino Sausages (a type of Pork sausage). Cured hams taste more or less the same to me but there’s a number of distinctions from one another. For example in this platter, a difference between the Jamon Serrano and the Parma ham is where it is sourced from, the former being sourced from Spain while the latter being sourced from Italy. Another difference would be the duration in which the hams are cured. Spanish hams are usually cured for longer durations compared to French or Italian hams and hence gives off a stronger flavour but honestly, it’s really quite hard to tell.

Even within the same country, not all pigs are born equal. For Spanish hams, Jamon Serrano is more or less an entry level breed, relatively affordable and eaten by the masses. In contrast, the Jamon Iberico (aka Iberian pigs), which would be the “wagyu” of Spanish pigs. And even amongst the “wagyu”, there are of varying grades, where there is a type of free-range Iberian pig which feeds on acorns called Jamon Iberico de Bellota, which is the most prized Iberian pigs.

The 126 Sliders ($42++) arrived as a set of 6 burgers; a pair of Beef with Foie Gras & Caramelized Onions, a pair of Beef with Cheese, Tomato, Bacon & Mustard Mayo, and a pair of Beef with Rocket, Tomato Jam sliders. This was accompanied with a dish of Crispy French Beans & Truffle Fries. Weird to hear of Deep Fried French Beans but they actually tasted rather good.

Of the 3 types of sliders, the one with bacon appealed to me most. It was candied bacon after all and the explosive mix of savoury, sweet and creaminess from the mayo and cheese was indeed a rewarding experience. The foie gras sliders were good as well, though the foie gras was less fatty than I would have liked and slightly overcooked.

Guy will love this one, the Poultry Platter ($52++), which comes with Roasted Baby Chicken, Duck Leg Confit, Honey Grilled Quail, with sides of Pine Nut & Raisin Stuffing and Sauteed Mushrooms. We hardly find quail in Singapore and the last time I vividly remember eating it was during an orgasmic luncheon at Caprice, a 3-star Michelin French restaurants in Hong Kong. The grilled quail sadly didn’t offer a similar experience here. What I liked in the Poultry Platter however, was the Duck Confit. The meat was slightly dry but the crisp skin was delicious. The sauteed mushrooms were great too!

Alternatively, there’s also the Meat Platter ($68++), which has Grilled Ribeye, Sausage, Pork Belly with Mashed Potatoes & Baked Vegetables. The Western-styled 烧肉 was the highlight of this platter, crisp on the outside with a good balance of tender meat and fats.

The Deep Fried Brie with Red Onion Marmalade ($16++) felt a little steeply priced to me, given that it tasted like the Cheese Sticks from Burger King. Ouch.

The Grilled Octopus was decent, lightly charred yet retaining a moist chewy texture. I don’t understand why octopus tastes the way it is over in Singapore. It’s so much chewier than the ones I had in Spain and Portugal, where the octopus actually boosts a texture similar to a slightly more elastic form of stingray.

After our meal, I got the chance to go into the bar to concoct a drink for myself. It’s something that 1-TwentySix has been experimenting with, where diners can get involved in the cocktail making process and customize a drink for themselves and their friends at a nominal fee (I’m guessing its something like 20 bucks per cocktail?). Of course, the friendly bartenders will be at your side giving advice on which types of alcohols and mixers go well together so that you don’t screw up too badly and set the bar on fire whilst trying to make a Flaming Lamborghini.

Overall, I believe that the attraction of 1-TwentySix lies in its laid back ambience away from town, rather than the glamorized bar food. It has the vibes of Timbre but with more class.

Special thanks to 1-TwentySix for the invitation!

1-TwentySix

902E East Coast Parkway, #01-26 Playground @ Big Splash

Tel: +65 6681 6464








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