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.





Lower East Side Taqueria – A Chill-out Mexican Bar

14 03 2014

The folks at Spathe Public House have done it again, this time with their conceptualization of Lower East Side Taqueria, a relative newcomer to the red ocean of Katong. Standing out from all neighboring eateries with its prominent shop sign and happening vibes, this Mexican joint is hard to miss as you drive pass Katong Shopping Centre and Katong Laksa. I was definitely eager to dive into their interpretation of Mexican cuisine and suggested meeting up with several old buddies here for dinner and drinks.

Closing time

While there’s no lack of affordable watering holes around the area, with the likes of Bar Bar Black Sheep and Two Fat Men, Lower East Side doesn’t seem to compete on price. Non-happy hour prices (8pm onwards) of their Australian/New Zealand draft beer goes for $15-$16 a pint, compared to just $11 for a pint of Kronenbourg at Bar Bar Black Sheep @ Tanjong Katong. What Lower East Side does strive at however, is to create a much more holistic dining experience with a well thought out interior design that I personally found pretty hip.

Spacious seating arrangements

Having not been to Mexico, I can’t attest to the authenticity of the food here, though my gut instinct told me the flavors seemed tweaked to suit local palates. A beer list featuring a mere two types of mainstream Mexican beers (Sol and Corona) further fueled my skepticism. Then again, it does take ingenuity to improve on tradition and if a Singapore-inspired Mexican cuisine works, that’s fine and dandy too.

Whilst waiting for everyone to arrive, we ordered Les Mix ($14+) that comprised of Garlic Fries and Corn Chips, with 4 accompanying sauces (Cheddar Cheese, Sour Cream, Salsa, Guacamole). Nothing worth raving about unfortunately. Just simple bar snacks to keep the liquid courage flowing more smoothly.

I was initially worried that the Ancho Pulled Pork Burrito ($13+) wouldn’t fill me up. After all, what does $13 get you in a bar nowadays? Surprisingly, my doubts were unfounded and what was presented was a bursting burrito filled with fragrant basmati rice, chunks of pork in a hearty stew-like gravy, black beans and fresh avocado that brought perfect balance to the dish. I would imagine that the creamy avocado would also help sooth the burns had a high spice level burrito been requested. Was pretty glad that the basmati rice wasn’t clumpy and yet defied the laws of physics by not flying everywhere as I sank into the burrito. Overall, this was something I would recommend ordering here.

On the other hand, I didn’t like the Chipotle Beef Burrito ($15+) quite as much. The beef was a little too sinewy, hence much chewing was involved. The burrito fillings of sweet corn, pineapple salsa and guacamole weren’t as compatible either.

If you are less hungry or more carb conscious, tacos might be a better option. I only tried the Hake Tacos ($18+) and found that the size of the hake fillet on the petite side.

Range of Japanese beers > Mexican beers

All in all, keeping food expectations in check, Lower East Side is a pretty nice place to chill out. The staff were very friendly too and took the initiative to offer a complimentary tequila shot since my friends mentioned it was my belated birthday.

Lower East Side Taqueria

19 East Coast Road

Tel: +65 6348 1302

Website: https://www.facebook.com/lowereastside.sg





Amici Authentic Italian Restaurant – An overpriced neighbourhood joint

20 05 2013

Standing proud at a discreet corner of Holland Village is old dame Amici. She has been around for 13 years and counting, entrenching her status as a veteran in Italian cuisine.

Amici means “friends” in Italian and how apt it is as I personally find it to be an ideal place for long undisrupted catch up sessions in the hustle and bustle of Holland V. Meals at Amici exhibit a stark contrast compared to other popular spots in the vicinity such as Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao (which does an affordable steamboat and XLB buffet) and Everything With Fries, as meals here feel a lot less hurried, contributed partially by the cosy, rustic and rather quiet interior of the restaurant. On the other hand, sad to say that much of their food didn’t impress.

We started off dinner with the Deep Fried Calamari ($13.90++/small or $19.90++/large). As with Amici’s rendition, I too like my calamari on the tender delicate side, where a light batter is used and chewing is made minimal. A creamy aioli dip on the side undoubtedly enhanced the palatability of the dish.

Next came the Saute Vongole ($17.90++) aka clams served with white wine sauce and chili. While similar in taste to the steamed lalas’ in spicy sauce one can easily find in Chinese Seafood restaurants or in an East Coast Park hawker stall, the vongole at Amici differs slightly as the spiciness level of the gravy has been toned down a notch, so that diners get a greater sense of the natural bittersweet flavor from the clams.

The undisputed best dish for the night was the Crabmeat pasta with garlic, olive oil & chilli ($27.90++). Cooked to a lovely al dente, the amalgam of flavours exuded by the briny crabmeat, oil and spice left me hankering for more.

The Oven-baked black cod fillet crusted with butter Herbs and garden greens ($36.90++) was pleasant but unexciting and easily forgettable.

Amongst the 4 cheeses (Gorgonzola, Buffalo Mozzarella, Scamorza and Ricotta) in the Pizza 4 Formaggi ($26.90++) aka 4 Cheese Pizza, what resounds most distinctly was the Gorgonzola, a type of Blue Cheese. However, compared to some other 4 Cheese Pizzas I have had, this one comes across as relatively mild. I wouldn’t consider pizzas to be Amici’s strong point given that the thin crust was quite soggy.

We ended with the award-winning Tiramisu. It’s hard to say if it’s worth the hype however as our individual opinions of it were incongruent. Some of my dining companions loved it while I thought it was meh. The main gripe I had was that the Ladyfingers biscuit, the spongy cake used within a Tiramisu, was overly soggy which dampened my spirits as well, pardon the pun.

I don’t consider Amici to be anywhere near the best for Italian dining in Singapore. It’s an overpriced neighbourhood Italian joint, nothing more nothing less.

This meal was hosted and paid for by Amici.

Amici Authentic Italian Restaurant

275A Holland Avenue, Holland Village

Tel: +65 6469 9989





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





Mid-Autumn Taiwan Pineapple Cakes – SunnyHills vs Din Tai Fung

11 09 2012

I always thought that feasting on Pineapple Cakes was only meant for Chinese New Year, but it seems that the Taiwanese trend of having Pineapple Cakes for Mid-autumn festival is also picking up here. I recently received 2 packages of Pineapple Cakes, one from SunnyHills and the other from Din Tai Fung, and I shall provide some insight on their gift packages for this Mid-autumn Festival.

Helming from Taiwan, SunnyHills is possibly one of the most well-known Pineapple Cake brands in Singapore, with its Singapore branch located within the iconic Raffles Hotel. SunnyHills doesn’t simply operate a bakery and retail shop, but goes all the way upstream within the supply chain, where it also manages pineapples farms in Taiwan to ensure quality control of its pastries.

Priced at $25/$37.50/$50 for 10/15/20 pieces, SunnyHills Pineapple Cakes are made using New Zealand Butter, Japanese flour, eggs from a local Taiwan farm and pineapples from their Pineapple Estate on Bagua Mountain, Taiwan, without the use of preservatives or additives. You know as with all pineapple tarts, it’s always the case of personal preference. So compared to the ones from Din Tai Fung, I prefer SunnyHills’ Pineapple filling, which has chunkier pineapple bits and is also more tangy and less sweet.

As for Din Tai Fung’s Mid-Autumn Taiwan Pineapple Cake Gift Set ($24.80 nett), it consists of 8 Pineapple Cakes, and 2 boxes of Jasmine Green Tea as a complement to the pastries.

Just like SunnyHills, Din Tai Fung’s Pineapple Cakes are free from food additives, preservatives and trans-fat, making it a safe and healthy snack. Songshan pineapples, which are known for their special aroma and low acidity, are used to make the pineapple fillings, resulting in a sweet jam that isn’t too tangy. What I like about Din Tai Fung’s Pineapple Cakes over SunnyHills is that its pastry has a more buttery texture.

So as cliche and PR friendly as it might sound, I guess there’s no clear winner between SunnyHills and Din Tai Fung just yet.

Oh by the way, DBS/POSB cardmembers get 15% off with the purchase of 2 or more boxes of Din Tai Fung’s Pineapple Cake Gift Set, and an additional 5% discount for purchases of 6 boxes and above.

At the same time, Din Tai Fung has also launched a new dish, the Truffle Chicken Soup ($19.80++), which is only available at the Marina Bay Sands, Paragon and Resorts World Sentosa outlets. I headed down to Paragon to see what the fuss was all about and I have to agree that this is one hearty soup with strong umami flavours, recommended for fans of their existing chicken soup who don’t mind spending a couple extra bucks for the added experience. I’m not sure if truffle oil was added into the soup or if the few slices of black truffle are just that fragrant, but the aroma of truffle was very discernible.

On a side note, my mum actually goes through the arduous process of making homemade pineapple tarts for Chinese New Year (which taste way better than any tarts you can find outside), so I know how time consuming it is to make the pineapple jam. So if anyone ever offers you a homemade pineapple tart, do take the time to savour the fresh ingredients and love that has gone into that little parcel.

Special thanks to SunnyHills and Din Tai Fung for the Mid-autumn gifts sets / meal and have a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

SunnyHills

328 North Bridge Road, Raffles Hotel Arcade #03-05

Tel: +65 8522 9605





iFly and SkyLoft, Sentosa – Indoor Sky-diving and Rooftop Dining

24 08 2012

I’m quite the risk averse person when it comes to physical activities. I shy away from scuba diving, sky-diving, bungee jumping and theme parks, though I admit I do ride the occasional roller coaster and spinning teacups to avoid looking (too much) like a wuss in front of members of the opposite sex. So I was a little apprehensive when I received an invitation to try out iFly, an indoor sky-diving tunnel in Sentosa, which was followed by a tasting at Skyloft, a rooftop bar restaurant located in the same premises as iFly. Unsure if such an activity was too adventurous for my risk-profile, I went to check out the online videos and pictures of iFly. Fortunately, they didn’t look too extreme for my feeble heart and I decided to take the leap, literally.

Even little girls can do it!

The most basic package is priced between $50 to $89 (depending on the time and day of visit, whether you are an adult, student or child and whether a booking had been made in advance) and consists of 2 skydives. Each skydive simulates a fall from 12,000 feet to 2,500 feet and lasts approximately 45 seconds.

Do not fret if you have no experience in sky-diving as a short training session is conducted pre-flight to advise flyers on the various hand signals used, basic postures for the dive and of course, a review of safety tips. In all, the whole activity lasted approximately 1.5 hours.

Me during a dive

During the 2nd flight, the instructor lifted me up all the way to the top of the wind tunnel and dropped me back down to the base of the wind tunnel for the additional thrill.

Happy sky-divers 😀

Happy that I didn’t embarrass myself too badly during the flights, I then proceeded on to SkyLoft, which is housed on the roof of the iFly complex. It’s a pretty chill place and in the late mornings and afternoons, the outdoor area makes for a great place to do some light reading and casual chit chats, as it is rather spacious and conducive enough for mugging, working or slacking purposes.

However, I would imagine that the best time to visit SkyLoft is in the evenings, where you get to catch a glimpse of the sunset, the laser show and fireworks display from Songs of the Sea, followed by live music by renowned musicians such as Claire & Charmaine (on Wednesdays), Jack & Rai (on Thursdays), Shirlyn & the UnXpected (on Fridays) and Sara & 53A (on Saturdays).

Lazing at SkyLoft on a Saturday Afternoon

View of Songs of the Sea from SkyLoft

Of course in the afternoon heat, I would rather escape into the cool embrace of air conditioning.

SkyLoft’s Indoor Seating, for lovers of air-con

The cuisine at SkyLoft isn’t very pronouced, though it veers much towards western. Just when you think it’s an Italian joint with its list of pastas and pizzas, you stumble upon items like Pork Ribs, Steak and even Laksa.

We started with a serving of the Wings ($14++), sinful fried chicken wings that were coated with a marinade tasting suspiciously like prawn paste and garnished with a light sprinkling of chicken floss. You can hardly go wrong with fried chicken. I believe most of us can attest to that. But in terms of preference, I would still go for a good old bucket of KFC fresh out of the fryer!

Stone the food blogger who raves about KFC right?

Perhaps a better snack worth ordering is the chunky Truffle Fries ($12++), which was very decent and managed to stay crisp for a surprisingly long time.

I found the Big Breakfast ($16++) unexciting. It is made up of the usual suspects, Egg (choice of sunny side up, overeasy, poached, scrambled, runny scrambled), Pork Sausage, Bacon, Semi-dried tomato, Baked Beans, Sauteed Mushrooms and Mixed Salad, none of which stands out from the mediocre in terms of taste.

I believe food should be made fresh, from scratch if possible to justify the premium we pay when dining out so it irked me that the Baked Beans seemed to be of the canned variety. The Bacon too was much too salty. I would have loved to try some homemade sausages but there’s hardly any cafes around that do, so I can’t fault them on that but if you know of any local cafes that do, do share and comment below!

The Eggs Benedict ($14++) has room for improvement too, as the Hollandaise Sauce was way too tart.

Instead of the usual white noodles that we are familiar with, SkyLoft’s Laksa ($18) is made using Yellow Noodles and topped off with Jumbo King Prawn, Fish Ball, Fish Cake, Tow Pok, Spiced Coconut Gravy and Sambal Chili. Perhaps familiarity with the slender white noodles has made me resistant to change, but I find the yellow noodle a bit too thick and chewy, so much so that it felt like I was having a bowl of curry chicken noodles instead. I didn’t take to the  coconut gravy either as it was too watered down, and too spicy for me to handle. The best thing in this dish was definitely the fresh and springy jumbo prawn, which could be something you might be paying $16 for in Newton Circus.

So while SkyLoft gets full marks for its laid back ambience, the food has some way to go. This was surprising as I found their canapes very well executed when I was there for their restaurant launch about half a year back.

In conclusion, I would say that iFly is worth a visit, especially if you have not sky-dived before. If you have some spare cash lying around and are planning to throw a party, what I can suggest is to book the sky tunnel for a private event, followed by food, booze and music at SkyLoft. It promises to be an experience you and your friends will not be forgetting for a long time.

Special thanks to iFly and SkyLoft for the invitation!

SkyLoft @ iFly Singapore

43 Siloso Beach Walk, #05-01

Tel: +65 6270 0602





&Made by Bruno Menard – Not Making the Cut

12 08 2012

Waking up at 11.30am and far too lazy to make any reservations, I met up with R in town for our usual nice meal routine. Being a weekday, it was inconceivable that Salt Grill & Sky Bar would run a full house but alas, it was so even as we trotted in late at 1.30pm.

So, it was a mere coincidence that we ended up at &Made for lunch on this eve of National Day. While a friend had highlighted its existence to me just the day before, I had no idea it was conceptualized by a man holding 3 Michelin Stars, Chef Bruno Menard. I guess it’s good that I was unaware of this fact as one tends to form unrealistic expectations and set unobjective standards in such instances, even if it’s just a casual burger joint.

Truthfully, I have little respect for burgers. Too many eateries have frivolously used the term “gourmet burgers” for something far too mediocre, leaving me increasingly wary. In addition, too many anti fast food movies like Food Inc have unveiled that a meat patty might not purely be derived from a nice cut of meat but from the many random nooks and crevices of an animal carcass. So you really can’t blame me for thinking poorly of burgers.

Even amongst the Top 10 Burgers rated by IS Magazine, not all of them make the cut in my book. In fact, one of the more impressionable burgers I have had to date, The Foo Works from Foo House Cafe & Bar, is sadly missing from the list.

The big question today however, is whether or not &Made’s burgers make the cut.

Housing approximately 40 pax with the dining concept of gourmet burgers in a casual setting, &Made prides itself in creating ingredients and fillings for its burgers from scratch, which explains the origin of the eatery name.

The food menu is simple enough, compacted into a single sheet of paper for easy reference.

I had The Lamb ($25++), a burger that is made from a Lamb spiced patty, Fresh coriander, lime pickled sauce with curried raisins & onion jam. This burger fumbled on many aspects. There was just way too many flavours going on at the same time that left my palate confused. I felt that the curry didn’t go well with the caramelized onions and deconstructing the burger didn’t help much either, as some elements such as the lime picked sauce was far too sour and left me cringing.

I was sadly mistaken thinking that the Truffle fries (add $3 for upgrade from normal fries) would be a respite from the disappointing burger. The fries were overfried, soggy and tasted stale.

&Made categorizes Shakes and Smoothies under 1 section but as best explained by reluctantwwfoodie.com, there’s some differences between the 2.

“A smoothie is typically made with fruit – frozen fruit, fruit juice, fresh fruit, etc. It’s not a dairy affair. It’s a fruit party. A shake (“milkshake” being the source of the word), on the other hand, is a dairy-based treat usually made with ice cream, milk or both. The thickness of either does not change the name; as long as you can suck it up through a straw, it’s either a smoothie or a shake. When you start to need a spoon, then it becomes an ice cream or a sorbet.”

Given the 1 mouthful I tried, I couldn’t tell if the Banana & Honey ($9++) served here was a smoothie or a milkshake but I wouldn’t put much extra thought into it, since a return purchase is unlikely. The drink was just too thin and not rich enough for my liking.

Sticking to The “B” Burger ($19++) is a far better choice. It’s less fancy than some of the other burgers on the menu but what you get is a respectable and moist dry aged beef burger with onion confit, caper garlic sauce & Comte Cheese.

Most other food blogs have glowing reviews of &Made so I guess I’m pretty much alone on this one, as overrated and overhyped pretty much sums up my impression of &Made.

&Made

9 Scotts Road, #01-04/05/06 Pacific Plaza

Tel: +65 6732 9808








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