Portico – Comparing the Signature Menu, SG50 Menu and Daily Set Lunch Menu

26 07 2015

It’s places like Portico that excite the food blogger in me. Rather than blogging about an establishment in town that is already well-covered, food bloggers’ value add to the general public in my view comes from highlighting restaurants that are a little less well known, possibly new establishments or restaurants that are further away from the city centre. Portico fits the bill perfectly…

Housed in the former premises of Hosted on the Patio inside an estate of low-rise commercial buildings, Portico isn’t the most conspicuous of places but is still accessible by public transport (10mins walk from  Labrador Park MRT station), a sufficiently long walk to whip up an appetite.

One of the things I like best about Portico is the laid-back casual ambience, complemented by a warm service staff. It really felt like I was dining at a friend’s place, where I was free to just walk about the spacious restaurant, snapping pictures without feeling like I was disrupting anyone’s meal. With a seating capacity of 100 pax, it’s a perfect venue for large gatherings and celebrating special occasions.

Apart from the daily set lunch ($38++ for 3-courses, also avail on Saturdays), there are two other sets available during lunch time as well; a 5-Course SG50 lunch set priced at $50++ and a 4-course Signature Set Menu priced at $58++.

Alternatively, the ala-carte menu is also reasonably priced with mains starting from $26++ and up. This is made more attractive with an ongoing promotion for diners with the American Express Platinum card , where each order of a main course comes with a complimentary dessert, subject to term and conditions.

As it was our first time here, our party of 4 decided to try the different lunch sets for comparison.

SG50 Set Menu ($50++ for 5 Courses)

While Portico primarily serves European cuisine, the SG50 set menu showcases a fusion of Western dishes with Singapore cuisine influences. For example, our first course comprised of Bak Kut Teh Terrine and Chili Crab Brioche. Was a bit let down by the gelatinous terrine as the Bak Kut Teh flavor was a bit too subtle, especially evident given that the terrine was served cold which masked the flavours even more. We did enjoy the Chili Crab Brioche however, which was reminiscent of a Chili Crab over a Fried Mantou.

The second course was an upscale “Rojak”. The vegetables and fruits came in a vacuum pack which we poured into the bowl of Shrimp Paste Espuma, Peanuts and Crispy Bean Puffs (tau pok). The tau pok was intentionally burnt to achieve a charred smokey flavor that complemented the shrimp paste well but feedback from around the table was mixed regarding the extent of the charring.

Next up was a Smoked Pork Wanton Soup, comprising a Tortellini of Smoke Pork, Konjac noodles and Pork Bone Broth. While many of us might not be familiar with Konjac noodles (one that currently comes to mind is the one used in the Spicy Salivating Chicken Dish at Xi Yan @ Shaw Lido / Craig Road), most should be familiar with Konnyaku Jelly that we would probably have had in our childhood. I like that the texture of Konjac noodles comes across as a little more springy relative to the usual flour-based noodles but taste-wise, this definitely wasn’t as inspiring as the previous two dishes.

For main, we were served a Laksa Risotto, which turned out to be one of my favourite dishes for this lunch. The Risotto was made using 3 different “grains”; Quinoa, Orzo (a short rice-shaped pasta) and Barley, which was served with a side of Laksa Leaf Pesto, Coconut Foam, a Pulau Ubin Sea Bass Fishcake and a perfectly grilled Tiger Prawn. When everything was mixed together, no doubt it reminded me of the rich laksa gravy from Katong. The bean puff (tau pok) was awesome too, much on the crispy side, providing nice juxtaposition texturally.

Last up was the Teh-ramisu. You heard that right, a tiramisu-inspired dish that uses Teh Terik infused Sponge and a Milk Tea Mascarpone Mousse, topped with caramel pearls. It scores well on the novelty factor and S mentioned it had a nice hint of earl grey or ginger as well.

Overall, two thumbs up for the SG50 Set Menu. Creative and very tasty.

Signature Set Menu ($58++ for 4-courses)

The signature menu as its name suggests, offers what’s best on the menu and a quick way for first-time diners to get introduced to Portico. A well-blended smooth mushroom soup was served first, together with a parmesan pastry tuile. I thought it was pleasant but not good enough to be listed as a signature item.

The second course was a Salad of Vine-ripened Tomatoes with Jamon Serrano, Organic Quinoa and Honey Melon Dressing. Again, I found it pleasant but nothing distinct enough to make it stand out from similar salads at other restaurants.

For main, we had the choice between the Chicken Confit and a Pan-seared Pulau Ubin Sea Bass. We opted for the latter and it was served with Roasted Potatoes and Herbed Beurre Blanc sauce (aka French White Butter Sauce). One of the betters ones I have had of late, the skin of the Sea Bass was seared to a nice crisp, the fish meat moist and not overcooked and the fish was really fresh. The Sea Bass used here is shipped daily from a fishery in Pulau Ubin and arrives within two hours of the fish being caught, hence the freshness. This we felt, definitely earned its spot in the signature menu.

Dessert came in the form of a Deconstructed Blackforest, using 70% Varlhona Dark Chocolate Mousse, Hazelnut Soil, Cherry Coulis and Caramel Ice Cream. For dramatic effect, some popping candy was also added which gave the popping echos to the surprise of diners. This was insanely good in my humble opinion, something worth popping by for even without the full meal.

Daily Set Lunch Menu ($38++ for 3-courses)

The daily set lunch menu changes frequently but during this occasion, paled in comparison to both the SG50 and Signature Menu Sets.

From a choice of 4 Salads, we chose one that had Berries, Quinoa and Avocado. A really refreshing starter with the tang form the Raspberries and Pomegranate doing a great job in stimulating our salivary glands.

For mains, we had a choice of the Roasted Duck Leg or the 3 Grain Laksa Risotto. We chose the former since the Laksa Risotto was a compulsory dish in the SG50 menu. As the duck was roasted rather than fried, the meat remained sufficiently moist at the expense of a more crispy duck skin one would normally find in a duck confit dish. However, a rather meh dish overall.

The Cake of the Day was a Blueberry Lavender Cake. This was pretty disappointing as the cake was rather dry and too dense for my liking.

As it was R’s belated birthday, we also ordered a slice of Rainbow Cake, which fared slightly better but honestly, just stick with the Deconstructed Blackforest…

Aesthetically-pleasing and creative dishes that taste good to boot, a laid-back charming setting while staying friendly on the pocket. That pretty much sums up our experience at Portico.

PS: There is an Ultimate Truffle Fries (800g of Truffle Fries with white truffle salt, truffle shavings, shaved aged gruyere and edible golf leaf) on the menu…I got my eye on you.

Portico

Address: 991B Alexandra Road, Singapore 119970

Tel: +65 6276 7337

Website: http://portico.sg/

 

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[Berlin, Germany] Tim Raue – Asian Fusion Confusion

5 01 2014

Food aside, Tim Raue has the unlikely makings of a Michelin 2-Star restaurant. First off, the entrance of the restaurant does not face the main street but is hidden in a nondescript courtyard (or parking lot, euphemisms aside). I initially wondered if I had accidentally stumbled into a residential premise as I navigated my way in. Secondly, the staff while friendly and professional, are all given standard issue sneakers (think White Converses) to match their formal blazers. Well, hot pink blazers for the gals doesn’t scream formal. Lastly, the ambiance of the restaurant doesn’t scream fine-dining with its rather minimalistic oak decor. That said, I gladly embraced the obvious attempts to downplay the fine-dining aspect of the restaurant and immediately felt more at home.

I was first given a set of complimentary appetizers (Curried Cashews, Pickles in Wasabi Sauce, Japanese Cucumbers, Seaweed wrapped in Daikon) to nibble on while deciding on my courses.

I opted for a 3-Course Lunch, priced at 38 Euros, which was very much a steal and prompted my visit in the first place. Diners are allowed to choose from a list of appetizers, mains and desserts to make up the 3 courses regardless of the category, meaning that you can effectively order 3 mains. Do note that certain items on the menu do require additional supplements of between 8 to 12 Euros.

If 3-Courses isn’t enough or if you want to take the rare opportunity to try more things on the menu, additional courses can be added for 10 Euros each.

For starters, I had the Dim Sum “Partridge, Mache and Black Truffle” which I found pretty disappointing. The dumpling skin was much too thick and doughy in my view, while the black truffle sauce was excruciating savoury and overwhelmed the subtle partridge.

For main, I had the Peking Duck Interpretation (additional supplement of 12 Euros), a signature dish of the restaurant. It came as an ensemble of 3 items to be eaten in succession, starting with the Crispy Duck Breast over Bread Stuffed with Apples and Leek, followed by the Duck Liver Terrine with Leek & Ginger Mousse and ending off with the Duck Consomme with Duck Heart, Stomach and Tongue. In larger portions, this could have been a meal in itself which I would have gladly accepted.

Of the trio, I found the soup to be the most interesting, tasting like a blend of very rich turtle soup and braised duck sauce from Singapore hawker stalls. It was my first time having duck tongue and I thought it was pretty awesome, possessing a texture of smooth duck skin without the ensuing fattiness.

For dessert, I had the Mango, Vanilla & Kardamon. Kardamon is a type of plant similar to Ginger and I believe it was used to make the little meringue balls. Didn’t quite see how it fitted into the overall picture though. Overall, the dessert was pleasant but nothing to shout about. The aesthetics was probably the highlight of the dish.

I was also given a complimentary dessert of Iced Apple with Coriander Cream, which came together with the bill. Oddly, there also seemed to be Shredded Purple Cabbage inside, which I found to be superfluous and should be left at the doner kebap stands.

In one word, the whole experience here was interesting. Interesting is an interesting adjective because it hardly describes whether something had turned out great or bloody horrendous. For me, the food and staff outfits were interesting, with some courses bordering on unusual rather than tasty. Frankly for the price paid, I held greater expectations.

Tim Raue

Rudi-dutschke-str 26

Tel: +49 30 2593 7930





Skyve Wine Bistro – Fixing what isn’t broken

21 05 2013

This is going to be a really long review as it will combine a review of their 2-week old new menu, in addition to snippets of their former menu (back when I dined there in March’13 for my 24th birthday).

al fresco dining

I have been a fan of Owner/Chef Vincent Teng since his days at Table 66, where I was officially introduced to sous vide style cooking. I still remember the lamb shank I had back in June 2010, which felt like butter as my fork pierced through it. Table 66 has since ceased operations but in its place, Chef Vincent has reincarnated his cooking concept within a more casual and light-hearted environment that many fondly now know of as Skyve (an apt name to emphasize the shift towards casual dining).

the restaurant

Prior to this review (covering 2 of my dinner visits), I had been to Skyve only once for brunch. That was when R and myself still had the luxury of time to indulge in regular weekend Sunday brunches. Apart from the more pricey brunch menu, there’s an ongoing $6 nett breakfast promotion set (Toast, 2 Eggs, Sausage, Ham & Baked Beans) which is available between 10am-11.30am on weekdays too. That’s about the same price as a Mcdonald’s Breakfast, how awesome is that!

the lounge

There are 3 separate areas to the restaurant, which are the al fresco section (probably more for brunches), the restaurant section (for lunches and dinners in the comfort of aircon) and the lounge area (for light bites and booze). The lounge area in particular is really intimate and a perfect place to relax after work, knocking back a glass of wine while indulging in half a dozen oysters.

Review of the New Menu

Instead of having the mindset of “Why fix something that isn’t broken?”, Chef Vincent decided that it was time for a facelift of Skyve’s menu. While feeling a bit sad to see some really commendable items ceasing to exist, I was simultaneously rather eager to see what new creations were being introduced next.

We commenced the tasting with the a sampler of raw oysters, prepared in various styles. Of the lot, the one with the most distinctive taste was the ‘Escargot’ Style Oyster, which was gratinated in nori butter and topped with shaved bonito flakes and toasted sesame seeds. In my mind, while the taste is quite similar to an escargot, this definitely trumped a regular escargot by virtue of the desirable soft fleshy texture absent from a cooked snail. Truth be told, apart from aesthetics, there wasn’t much separating the Compressed Watermelon Oyster (topped with diced compressed watermelon, pickled watermelon rind and extra virgin olive oil) from the Lychee ‘Saketini’ Granita Oyster (topped with lychee & sake sorbet, seaweed “caviar”), as the natural creamy taste of the fresh oysters came across as most evident. Oysters of a single style are priced at $34++ for 1/2 dozen, or $38++ if you desire a mix of styles.

From left – Compressed Watermelon Oyster, Lychee ‘Saketini’ Granita Oyster, ‘Escargot’ Style Oyster ($34++/half dozen)

Another signature from Skyve’s new menu would be the Sous Vide Egg & Spaghettini ($18++). It was definitely tasty but also came across as slightly heavy for an appetizer, especially with so many flavors like the truffle salsa, iberico ham, hollandaise sauce and egg yolk all vying for attention. I must admit though, that if a sous vide egg could be labelled as a poached egg, it would probably have been the best poached egg I have had so far.

The thin crust Vegetarian Pizza ($34++) was garnished with pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, radish, all prepared in sous vide style, with grilled asparagus & capsicums, arugula leaves, truffle salsa and shaved parmesan cheese. Sous vide style involves cooking the vegetables (or meats) under relatively low temperatures in a vacuum under prolonged periods of time. Relative to simply boiling the vegetables, sous vide expands the time frame where the vegetables are cooked to a proper doneness, allowing the chef to get the texture and consistency right almost 100% of the time. In addition, the natural sweet flavors of the vegetables are less likely to be leeched out as well since it is cooked in a sealed vacuum bag, allowing for a more intense and concentrated flavor. That said, I would still prefer a pizza smothered in cheese with loads of seafood and meat.

The duck confit was one of my favourite dishes the last time I was here so I was so looking forward to the reworked version. The Asian Inspired Confit of Duck Leg ($36++) was done sous vide style and marinated in Asian five spice, served with pickled fennel and orange segment salad, polenta fries & orange sauce. The first thing that drew my attention to this dish was the robust aroma from the five spice marinade, which engulfed the entire restaurant. I’m sure it must have drawn some jealous looks from other diners who didn’t order it. Taste and texture-wise, it was also close to perfect in my view, especially the savoury crisp duck skin. Another plus point is that Skyve doesn’t scrimp on its portions and 2 duck legs are served per order. Downsides to this dish were that the Orange sauce didn’t quite complement the duck and I took to eating the duck in its unadulterated form, and while the polenta fries was novel with an internal texture similar to cous cous, I would have preferred just regular fries.

It was difficult to decide which was better, the duck or the Sous Vide Pork Shoulder ($36++) that had been braised in root beer and spice and served with savoury crackling skin, pineapple and pomegranate salsa, toragashi pepper & plum salt. The texture of the pork was really tender, similar to a well-executed Cantonese braised pork dish. It was also hugged by a sweet glaze and thoroughly marinated with the root beer whose flavor comes as a light aftertaste. I didn’t have much issues with the crackling but one of the other diners I was with felt that it was a little dry.

The Callebaut Warm Chocolate Molten Cake ($14++) was nicely done. They got the timing down right so the cake benefited from a lovely viscous core of warm chocolate. Funnily enough, the maple walnut gelato reminded me of po chai pills (保济丸) used for diarrhea relief because of an initial deep pungent taste from the maple. The other diners only drew this association after I mentioned it and had all found ice cream amazing initially. They reasoned that my sense of taste was acute because of food blogging but the real reason was because I choked on a fish bone and swallowed a whole mentos before, which resulted in my fear of swallowing tablets in general. So when I was in primary school, I had a case of diarrhea and chewed on po chai pills. The taste was so repulsive I vomited after and the taste of po chai pills has been etched into memory since then.

My favourite dessert was the Mango & Cheese Semifreddo ($12++). Think of a semifreddo as a creamier, more mousse-like version of ice cream. This one was really delectable, tasting much like cheesecake ice cream. The frozen lime foam perched on the semifreddo did well to balance the creaminess, thus avoiding running the risk of an over-cloying dessert.

Another dessert I would recommend would be Inspired By Reds ($12++), a strawberry parfait with sous vide strawberry in balsamic vinegar, raspberry sorbet, flower tuile and dehydrated raspberry. Highlights of this dish would be the smooth and balanced strawberry parfait, and the dehydrated raspberry bits which tasted like little bits of sweets with a concentrated sour zing. Apart from being visually stunning, this was also the perfect palate cleanser.

I abhorred the Tiramisu ($12++) becuase of its over-soggy nature but this view wasn’t shared by everyone, as almost all the lady diners present adored it precisely for that same point. One even went further to say that she preferred it soggier. Only today did I realize the vast misalignment in what different individuals would consider a good tiramisu.

The dinner was an invited media tasting and paid for by Skyve. Special thanks to Shasha from FoodNews for hosting the evening. I enjoyed myself tremendously!

A Review of the Old Menu

I was desperately thinking for a place to celebrate my birthday dinner, somewhere that had good food and ambience, wasn’t too obscure for people taking public transport, not too extravagant nor too crowded for a Saturday night. Such a selective filtering procedure lead me to shortlist Skyve.

For my appetizer for this dinner, I had the Seared Foie Gras ($22++), which was actually quite value for money in my book. Saveur fans might start hurling rocks at me saying that Saveur does it for $8 but I reason that the seared foie gras here is thicker, more fatty and tasty. And once you adjust for the size/weight of the foie gras (there’s actually 2 pieces of stacked foie gras in the picture), it all work out. The compressed watermelon, macerated watermelon rind, caramelized almonds, ume compote were pretty much useless adornments though and didn’t contribute much to complementing the foie gras. I ended up eating the foie gras and the watermelon separately.

The Squid Ink Spaghetti ($30++) was also really tasty. While this might potentially be one of the biggest no nos to order on a first date, trust me when I say the one here is worth the risk.

The Lamb Shank ($32++) braised in Red Wine wasn’t as tender as the one I had in June 2010 but still good nonetheless.

Despite being a recommendation by the staff, the Grilled Beef Chateaubriand ($40++) was quite a let down as it was rather lean and tough. There was some redemption from the Potato Rosti, Wild Mushrooms in Veal Jus Reduction and the accompanying Bearnaise Sauce, which added some flavour to the otherwise rubbery steak.

The Sous Vide Crispy Pork Belly ($34++) was a winner. I would say it’s better than the one at Ember, just because the sous vide cooking made the meat incredibly tender. I was sincerely shocked when my fork delved straight into the pork with almost no resistance. It was so jaw dropping and unbelievable that I had to ask my best friend K to poke at my pork as well. It’s just not something you’d encounter everyday. The problem I often encounter with Crackling Skin is that it’s so darn hard to cut it, especially if it gets soggy or overcooked. The crispy crackling here however, broke apart relatively easily to my relief. Tastewise, I think the pork belly was perfect on its own without the prune sauce, which tasted surprisingly savoury rather than sweet (like a mild Hoisin sauce). While I wasn’t a big a fan of the Potato & Apple Gratin and Fennel Salad with Mustard Seed on the side, it does help to cleanse the palate from the unctuousness accruing from the pork.

Confit of Duck Leg ($34++), Sous vide crispy duck leg, Maple caramelized Seasonal Root Vegetables, Sweet tamarind Sauce

Sous vide Petuna Ocean Trout ($34++), Poached warm Ocean Trout in Extra Virgin Oil, Black Olive & Seaweed Crust, Seasonal Vegetables, Potato Pave, Herb Fondue

Textures of Hazelnut & Chocolate Cake ($14++), Hazelnut Mousse, Chocolate Caramel Cream, Feuilletine Crust, Bing Cherry Coulis

Ivory Dome ($14++), Mango & Marscarpone, Passionfruit Jelly, Dark Chocolate Sponge, Mango & Lime Salad

Homemade Maple Ice Cream ($14++), Caramelized Apple infused with Cinnamon, Fleur de Sel, Wafers

Creme Caramel ($12++), Vanilla Egg Custard, Caramelized Orange Caramel, Sauternes Jelly, Sous Vide Pear

Let’s just put it this way, Skyve is currently within my top 5 favourite restaurants in Singapore. It’s a great place to find out more about sous vide style cooking without busting your budget…much.

Skyve Elementary Bistro & Bar

10 Winstedt Road Block E, #01-17

Tel: +65 6225 6690





Kilo – Doesn’t live up to the hype

11 05 2013

Kilo has been operating for 2 years now and yet still packs a full house on week nights. I still remember a year ago when I tried (twice) making a reservation 2 weeks in advance and got declined due to the place already being fully booked. Something was definitely going for them and I was curious to find out, especially since I was a fan of Raw Kitchen Bar (what Kilo was called before they shifted to the current premise).

The setting of Kilo is of a casual cafe style and since there’s no air conditioning in the eatery, be prepared to sweat a bit if you are coming in formal work attire on a warm night.

We had the Seared Scallops served on White Wine Mushrooms topped with Sweet Mushroom Reduction + Momotoro Tomatoes ($23++) for appetizers. I just love scallops but the highlight of this dish would actually be the robust mushroom cream sauce. If only there was a piece of bread to wipe the plate clean.

Our favourite for the night was the Sesame-Avocado-Wasabi Flavoured Tuna Tatare + Flourchips ($22++). I’m not a fan of tuna sashimi but the ones here feels slightly fattier and doesn’t taste as bloody and as what one might get at a Japanese restaurant. The gentle hint of wasabi was refreshing and the creaminess of the avaocado probably helped to tone down the spice to an optimal level.

While it’s one of their signatures and the better of the two mains we ordered, I wasn’t thoroughly impressed by the Day-night 12 hour Pork Belly with Purple Potato Wedges, Sour Cream & Crackling ($29++). The pork belly wasn’t as tender as I had anticipated and some parts of the crackling were so tough that one might risk breaking a tooth or two.

Balsamic Duck Leg with Butter Parsnip Mash & Sesame Asparagus ($30++). On a spectrum, the mash would be closer to the coarse and chunky side. A bit too dry and not buttery enough for my liking. The texture of the duck wasn’t bad but given that the sauce tasted somewhat similar to the one from the pork belly, we got bored of it quickly.

Truth be told, Raw’s Lava Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream ($15++) was really disappointing, possibly the most overcooked lava cake I have had at a restaurant. There was no lava whatsoever, so it was more of a chocolate muffin. The Ice Creams here are made in house and it was decent. I have attempted (or more like my friends attempted and I watched) making lava cakes at home so I could tell they screwed this one up real badly.

Had a bottle of their Gewurztraminer (a type of White Wine). Alongside Rieslings, it’s probably one of the easier wines to drink given its high sugar content.

Left the place feeling slightly perplexed as the experience was short of the dinner I had at Raw Kitchen Bar. However, given all the rave reviews I have read online about Kilo and constant stream of customers, I think a reassessment is in order.

Kilo

66 Kampong Bugis

Tel: +65 6467 3987





The Clan Restaurant – Classy, Lucious & Noteworthy

14 09 2012

Being inconspicuous is the new cool for the dining scene in Singapore, something The Clan Restaurant is trying to emulate but for someone who frequents Bukit Pasoh Road road often enough (for the affordable wines at Magma Restaurant a couple of shops down), The Clan Restaurant sticks out like a sore thumb to me.

There is no shortage of good great food along this stretch, with Oso and Majestic Restaurant just down the road, and Ember, Bistro Soori and Esquina on the adjacent lane. Daring as it might seem in choosing to locate here given the stiff competition, I had little doubt that The Clan Restaurant would be able to pull it off, and fabulously well at that. After all, it is helmed by Executive Chef Ken Teo, formerly of fusion restaurants Dozo and Tao’s Restaurant. Having eaten twice at both these restaurants, I was expectant of a mind blowing meal should The Clan be anything like them.

The Clan Restaurant claims to serve modern European cuisine, though Asian influences are evident within many of their dishes as well. Prices are not cheap per se with 5-Course Set Lunches and 6-Course Set Dinners going for $42.80++ and $62.80++ respectively, but definitely affordable given the quality and quantity of food. Ala carte is available as well, with mains at the $20ish range and all other courses at the $10ish range but I would suggest going for the sets which works out to be way more affordable. You wouldn’t want to miss out on any of the courses anyway.

From the outside, the restaurant doesn’t all look that spacious but once you are in, it feels like a labyrinth. With a seating capacity of 110, I really wonder if the restaurant can handle a full house. There are 2 levels to the restaurant. The 1st boasts an open concept kitchen that allows diners to view the kitchen action whilst enjoying their meals, while the 2nd floor is a little more dim and cosy to cater for more private moments.

1st Floor Seating Area

2nd Floor Seating Area

While waiting for 1 of my friends to arrive, we starting munching on the complimentary bread, which is served with a tasty dip made of sour cream and a hint of truffle oil. With the dips being this good, we weren’t shy to ask for extra helpings.

Before the 1st course, we were served an Apple Sorbet to whet our appetites.

1st Course: Chef’s Starter

Our first course was the Chef’s Starter ($18++), comprising Salmon Mousse Cone, Pan Seared Scallop with Asparagus & Truffle Foam and a Foie Gras Chawanmushi. Apart from the visual appeal, there was nothing fantastic about the powdery salmon mousse as it tasted like it could be bought off the rack from Cold Storage. The Scallop was seared well but I’m not sure if it was prepared some time ago since it didn’t feel as warm as it should be. What I loved most was the Foie Gras Chawanmushi, a smooth steamed egg custard with just enough foie gras blended in to tease the palate.

2nd Course: Cold Dish

The Cold Dish Course is only available for the set dinners, and is the only thing that differentiates the set lunch from the set dinners. C chose the Alaskan King Crab with homemade Karashi Dressing ($20++). The crab was pretty much left unadorned, methinks to allow the natural sweetness of the crab to shine through.

According to the wait staff, one of the more popular cold dishes is the Oyster in 3 Ways ($18++), which I didn’t manage to try since oysters aren’t ideal for sharing.

For myself, I had the Beef Carpaccio, Truffle Mustard Salad, with Truffle Teriyaki and Horseradish Sauce ($16++). I enjoyed the thin slices of marbled raw beef very much, and thought it went well with a light dab of the sweet teriyaki sauce and truffle mustard (which tasted like mayo). Just be sure not to be too liberal with the teriyaki sauce, as The Clan is with its liberal use of Truffle and Foie Gras in naming the dishes on its menu, as it might overwhelm the delicate beefy flavours.

3rd Course: Sides

The Kurobuta Pork Belly Confit with Pork Cracker & Passion Fruit Sauce ($14++) fared well in terms of moist tender meat, but failed in terms of crackling. I initially expected the belly to be slightly fattier, as the slab we had was rather lean. I want my fat meat!

I was rather taken by the Herb Encrusted Mushroom Escargot ($14++) as the snails were nothing short of plump and juicy.

The Deep Fried Foie Gras, Balsamico Reduction and Cheese Foccacia was somewhat a disappointment. I recently had the Deep Fried Foie Gras at Alkaff Mansion and thought a replication of that would have made my night. However, The Clan’s rendition was off by a mile. My main gripe was that the batter was too thick and drowned out the foie gras. A simple pan-seared one would have sufficed.

4th Course: Soup

I perceive mushroom soups in a negative light. To me, it’s usually something watered down that you get, alongside a drink from a $5 add-on upgrade to a set meal. The Cepes Mushroom with Truffle Paste ($9++) from The Clan however, is far from the cheap mushroom soup you find in such places. It’s chock full of flavour yet not overly thick, retaining a smooth consistency that just warms your whole body as you sip on it. It’s heaven in a bowl, one of the best mushroom soups around surely. I would go back just for this.

Not as awesome as the mushroom soup but nevertheless tasty was the Crab Bisque Cappuccino with Truffle Foam and Prawn Twister ($9++). Very airy and big on flavours to the extent that some of my friends found it too rich and sweet, but it agreed with my palate.

5th Course: Main

T had the 48 Degree Poached Salmon with Japanese Broth, Dehydrated Wakame and Leek Confit ($22++). While the salmon is cooked perfectly in a sous vide style, resulting in a fork tender texture, the flavours are awfully subtle, a huge contrast to the previous dishes that took some getting use to.

I had the Kurobuta Pork Jowl in Pistachio Puree, with Pickled Zucchini and 64 Degree Egg Yolk ($24++), reminding me again of the chef’s history at Dozo where a very similar dish in the form of Kurobuta Pork Cheeks is served. By the way, Jowl is just another word for animal cheeks. The marinade encrusting the pork cheeks added depth to what might have otherwise been a mere savoury dish, and coating the meat with egg yolk balances the flavourfulness of the dish.

Another dish reminiscent to that at Dozo’s is the 48 Hour Beef Short Ribs on Hoba Leef, with Madeira Sauce on Lava Stone ($27++). It’s no surprise that Chef Ken brought this idea over with him, especially since it’s a crowd favourite. The boneless beef ribs are served sizzling atop a hot stone that cooks the beef slowly, leaving the extent of doneness up to the individual to decide. The beef is extremely tender so chewing is kept at a minimal.

6th Course: Dessert

I thought the Madeira Cheese Panna Cotta ($9++) was a pleasant ending to the meal, with the smooth custard topped with a syrup made using madeira, a sweet fortified wine.

One of the more boring dishes I had today was the Chocolate Lava with Raspberry and Homemade Hazelnut Gelato ($9++). Not the best chocolate lava cakes I have come across, but it does its job of satisfying a sweet tooth.

As it was my friend P’s birthday, the staff arranged for a complimentary cheesecake. It tastes alright though it’s rather dry but who’s to complain when it’s free right?

95% of the 75 votes on Hungrygowhere gave The Clan recommend ratings, something almost unheard of and makes one question the authenticity of the votes. However, real votes or not, it’s hard not to love this place. They take care of the small details, like holding 6 different brands of sparkling water and that speaks volumes. In essence, The Clan offers fine dining fusion food that works without burning a hole in the pocket, very much living up to its motto of “classy, lucious and noteworthy”.

The Clan Restaurant

18/20 Bukit Pasoh Road

Tel: +65 6222 2084





Bistro Soori – Where French Meets Japanese

3 07 2012

Bistro Soori. Don’t be mistaken, it’s no Korean joint. It serves up an array of fusion dishes, drawing mainly from French and Japanese influences. I would describe its furnishing as chic, modern yet homely, reminiscent of a showroom at a condominium launch.

Marinated Angel Hair Pasta with Avruga & Seaweed ($17++). The pasta is coated lightly with a creamy sauce, with a little brininess coming from the caviar and seaweed. My main gripe is that the portion is quite tiny.

The reasons I love French cuisine is because the food is rich (and artery clogging). So if you are into French as well, I’m assuming that animal fats isn’t an issue for you and even if it is, I’d still insist you try the Slow Roasted Pork Belly, Pumpkin, Frisse, Pumpkin Seed, Yuzu Gastrique ($18++).

There’s a lot of bombastic terms in this dish name so let’s break it down a little into bite-sized pieces. Frisse is the name of the type of lettuce used (the frizzy kind) while “Gastrique is caramelized sugar, deglazed with vinegar, used as a flavoring for sauces. Nowadays, the term is frequently used to refer to any thus-flavored sauce itself, e.g. citrus gastrique, mango gastrique” (Source: Wikipedia).

This is definitely one of the best pork belly dishes I have had in recent memory and I loath how it is available only in starter-sized portions. The best thing about this dish is the fats. It doesn’t come across as the soft and wobbly kind but rather, gives off a firmer mildly crisp finish when you bite into it, which implodes with a concentrated accumulation of flavor.

I like the Cured Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Braised Red Cabbage, Grain Mustard, Golden Raisin, Pear ($33++). I love how the core of the tender tenderloin manages to retain a light pink hue. I love it even more that the curing process was executed well, with a subtle salty flavour being infused evenly throughout the meat. Most of the time, one encounters a cured meat that leaves you cringing from the excessive salt used but this one is different, leaving sufficient breathing room to appreciate the accompanying condiments as well.

Throw in the words uni and scallops (foie gras too!) in any dish and you’d be sure to pique my interest. Not that I’m complaining but somehow, I have noticed that sea urchin (aka uni) has been making guest appearances in modern french cuisine, such as the Uni Tagliolini at Pamplemousse, a restaurant in Dempsey that specializes in contemporary French.

That said, I wasn’t impressed with the Uni, Scallop, Prawn, Risotto, Yuzu, Thai Basil ($35++). The rice was considerably overcooked in my opinion, hence the texture failed to retain a slight firmness and bite and was on the mushy side instead. In addition, I didn’t think that the citrus yuzu was a good complement to the savoury seafood and it’s distinct flavour musked the more delicate flavours from the uni. No complaints about the execution of the seafood components though!

My favourite dish of the night was the Brown Butter Maine Lobster, Tomato, Tamarind, Thai Basil, Fennel ($42++). I wasn’t harbouring high expectations initially since I perceive Maine Lobster as a cheap lobster species. It was so easily available when I was at Canada and the States last summer, being sold in a Brooklyn flea market in “lobster buns” going at US$12 a pop, and the amount lobster meat given was really generous. Based on my estimation, I got about half a lobster in 1 hot dog sized bun. I even managed to get cooked live whole Maine lobsters in Granville, Vancouver during Canada’s National Day for C$14. Crazy affordable.

For the ones at Bistro Soori, it’s awesome not just because the lightly charred lobster flesh is fresh and springy, but also because of the tamarind butter sauce. Everything just tastes so good in butter, but add in crab shells to simmer with, what you get is a very concentrated crab bisque that really complements the sweetness of the maine lobster. Friend J ate a huge chunk of lobster in one mouthful and after that, gave a look of despondence. That was the end of her portion, a portion she had failed to thoroughly enjoy.

Duck Leg Confit, Fried Apple Puree, Fig, Parma Ham ($39++). The deboned duck thigh was a little too dry for my liking but taste-wise it was ok, especially with a dab of sweet apple puree followed by a dab of the vinaigrette, a good mix of sweet, savoury and tangy.

2 minutes before serving the Pandan Souffle with Strawberry Compote ($14++), the wait staff in charge of our table walked over and told me, “you might want to get your camera ready, the souffle will start sinking after half a minute”. I was quite pleased he bothered to show such care and concern, thumbs up for the service!

It is no wonder this is Bistro Soori’s most prized dessert. The souffle is light as air but as the wait staff said, it sank rather quickly. No matter, we polished it off in a matter of seconds anyway.

The Araguani Dark Chocolate Cake, Raspberry Sauce with Vanilla Ice Cream ($14++) was a run of the mill chocolate fondant.

My least favourite dessert was the Almond Milk Panna Cotta, Blueberry Gastrique, Lemon Grass Syrup ($14++). The panna cotta was a little lumpy and not as rich as I would have liked.

Overall, truly a wonderful experience, from the service, food to ambience.

Bistro Soori

2 Teck Lim Road

Tel: +65 6438 3802





The Disgruntled Chef – Modern European Communal Dining

29 04 2012

I have a love hate relationship with Dempsey. On one hand, it’s an awesome place to be on a quiet weekday afternoon. The whole place just exudes serenity and peacefulness, and the typical patrons to the area are well-heeled tai-tais with their other tai-tai friends. You can just take out your textbooks, order a cuppa, steal the occasion glance at the tai-tais and greenery, then press on with your readings. At night, Dempsey transforms into a much more happening place, though a little too commercialized for my liking then.

Participants in the SMU Gourmet Club’s latest food event were eager to try out a relatively new establishment in Dempsey called The Disgruntled Chef, helmed by Chef Daniel Sia. Born and raised in Singapore, Chef Daniel started his cooking career as a junior chef at Les Amis, moving up the ranks to become Chef de Cuisine at Marmalade Pantry and subsequently Head Chef at The White Rabbit. His visualization and dining concept behind The Disgruntled Chef revolves around a fun and casual communal dining experience, where diners can have access to good food without the stifling nature of most fine-dining restaurants.

Sticking to the emphasis on communal dining, instead of categorizing dishes as appetizers and mains, they are instead named “small plates” and “big plates”. I’d recommend having between 3 to 4 people share a plate, so that everyone has just about enough to feel satisfied but not too much as to hinder trying out a greater diversity of dishes.

For the small plates, we started off with the Katies Chunky Chips with Aioli. Essentially, it’s just thick-cut fries fried in truffle oil. Personally, after trying truffle fries over several occasions, I find that the taste of truffle fries doesn’t really vary much from place to place but it’s definitely a must try if you haven’t! Well, the truffle fries isn’t on the menu of The Disgruntled Chef and was served today as part of our special lunch menu so I can’t guarantee that you will be able to order it here on your next visit. If you are really interested in trying out truffle fries, other places that come to mind are Barracks and Skinny Pizza, which serves a shoestring variant of truffle fries.

Call it whatever you want, ostentatious; pretentious, but the Crayfish Mac & Cheese ($14++) spoke to me. We were on the same wavelength and I liked that there was a mix of light cream at the base and gratinated cheddar on the top. This definitely helped to avoid an overly cheesy experience that threatens being too heavy and filling you up too fast. However in my humble opinion, the crayfish is pretty redundant since you can hardly taste its presence anyway.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Crispy Lamb Short Rib with Chili, Cumin & Mint Yoghurt ($18++). When ribs are deep-fried, they tend to dry up really quickly and harden but this wasn’t the case here. A light shell of marinade encased the lamb ribs, while the meat remained tender and juicy. It’s possibly one of the most tender lamb ribs I have had and with a light dab of the mint yoghurt, what you get is a very balanced flavour free from gaminess and whets the appetite for more to come.

Without doubt, my favourite dish today was the Baked Pork Knuckle Terrine with Mash Potatoes and Black Truffle Sauce ($18++). Unlike what I envisioned of a typical terrine, where you get a cold pate-like dish that is eaten with bread or brioche, we were instead served a dish of steamy rounded pieces of meat over a very creamy truffled mash. It looked more like a roulade (rolled pieces of meat) than anything else so later on, I queried Chef Daniel about this and he confirmed the existence of hot terrines as well, though it’s a rarer find compared to its cold counterparts. Anyways, the reason why I found this pork knuckle terrine so divine is possibly because the meat is first cooked in a sous vide machine, where it is placed under a vacuum at low cooking temperatures over an extended period of time to ensure that the meat is evenly cooked, tender and succulent.

Maybe it’s a guy thing but I’d rather splurge on meat than vegetables but for those who need their daily greens, the Baby Spinach Salad with Mirin Dressing & Marinated Egg ($14++) is pretty decent. The Mirin Dressing provides a savoury-sweet tang that contrasts well with the slight bitterness of the raw vegetables.

We had the opportunity to sample 2 big plates as well, though they were not as well received as the small plates.

The Braised Oxtail Stew, Carrots, Kombu & Japanese Soy ($34++) came across as overly Asian, not really fitting in with the European theme of The Disgruntled Chef. However, judging this dish from an objective viewpoint and at the risk of sounding a little harsh, I felt it tasted somewhat like canned stewed pork.

The Roast Chicken with Chermoula Spices, Yoghurt and Roasted Potatoes ($34++) wasn’t great either. The yoghurt was similar to the one used earlier for the lamb short rib but didn’t complement the chicken as well because the chicken’s marinade was a lot more bland, and using yoghurt to tone down the savouriness further didn’t sit well with me.

For desserts, we had the Apple Tart with Caramel Sauce & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Thinly sliced caramelized apples rested atop a crisp layer of filo pastry and its sour zing went well with the sweet caramel sauce and ice cream. For vanilla ice creams, I employ a simple test to see if it’s of decent quality by just looking out for the black specks of vanilla beans in the ice cream. And yes, the black specks were evident in the ice cream we had here and it was pretty creamy too.

The Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ($14++) was a crowd pleaser, similar in texture to the more commonly found sticky date pudding and great for those with a sweet tooth.

Well, after all is said and done, I’d suggest that just for a while, push aside lessons learnt from your etiquette class that you shouldn’t be sharing food in a fine dining restaurant. The Disgruntled Chef doesn’t serve to function as a fine dining restaurant anyways. Drop your airs, stop acting all atas and share your damn food. After all, caring is sharing.

The Disgruntled Chef

26B Dempsey Road

Tel: +65 6476 5305








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