Fat Cow @ Camden Medical Centre – Holy Cow of a Set Lunch

6 10 2014

What I miss most about student life is the ability to partake in unhurried set lunches at “atas” establishments, at a fraction of the price of dinner service. Though even back then, it wasn’t easy to find restaurants that actually had set lunches worth going for, as the less dear set lunch prices usually meant getting certain items that were a poor excuse for a course. That’s what was so amazing with my first lunch visit to Fat Cow, a not so well kept secret of a Japanese Beef atelier. A typical dinner here easily runs into the $150-$300 range per pax, while set lunches are priced extremely reasonably between $26-$48++, which includes a salad, miso soup, chawanmushi, a choice between 12 main courses and dessert. Better yet, the set lunch is also available on Saturdays!

I first heard of Fat Cow from J almost 3 years back, after it had taken over the premises from Le Figue, a reputed French restaurant back in the day. It’s regretable that my first experience had come so late, for this is a gem that one should always keep close to heart.

*If you are planning on dining ala carte here, do download the Entertainer Singapore 2014 App, which contains three 1-for-1 vouchers on Main Courses here. The use of 1 Voucher already saves more than the 1-year subscription cost to the App.

Reception Area / Bar

Below is what a typical set lunch here looks like, with a partially eaten salad and sans the dessert. As mentioned above, there are 12 main courses to choose from for set lunches here, ranging from Tempura Dons, Chirashi, Sushi, Miso Cod, Kurobuta Tonkatsu, Beef Curry but most popular would be the Fat Cow Donburi (below) and the Fat Foa-gura Don.

Set lunch with half eaten salad and sans the dessert

The Fat Cow Donburi ($39++/set) comprised of A3 grade Charcoal-grilled Wagyu laced with truffle oil, with a perfectly poached onsen egg on the side. Freaking orgasmic is all I can say.

The Fat Cow Donburi

I really enjoyed the Fat Foa-gura Don ($43++/set) as well, which was grilled wagyu and glazed foie gras over rice. The beef is served in cubes with slightly more bite compared to the thinly sliced beef from the donburi and I feel that this allowed for a greater realization of how tender the beef actually was. The oily, decadent pieces of foie gras was executed expertly and not overcooked, definitely something I would consider ordering if it was available as a standalone side dish. While I could go at this all day, some might find this dish slightly unctuous. Well, that’s their loss.

Fat Foa-gura Don

Feedback from E was that the Chirashi ($48++/set) was decent as well, though from her facial expression, I could tell that her pleasure points fell short of the ecstasy I was feeling. Lucky for her, we also ordered some ala carte grilled wagyu, so not all was lost that day.

We tried the grilled Grade A3 Sirloin ($120++/150g) from Saga prefecture which is on the northwest part of Kyushu island and the grilled Ohmi Grade A4 Ribeye ($120++/150g) from Shiga prefecture. Unanimously, we all preferred the ribeye because the marbling was evidently better and had a richer flavor compared to the sirloin.

Now some people might ask, why do I pay in excess of $200 for a wagyu steak at those fancy schmancy restaurants when the same wagyu steak only costs $50 at Astons? The reason is because most likely, they aren’t the same. There are 3 things to look for when getting down and dirty with wagyu that might explain this price differential. Firstly, is it a cross-bred wagyu from Australia/US or pure-bred wagyu from Japan? Drilling down even deeper, wagyu really refers to Japanese beef, of which there are multiple breeds from the different prefectures (best known would of course be kobe) and each commands a different premium.

Secondly, assuming it is a purebred Japanese wagyu that we are looking at, the meat is then categorized by 2 grading metrics, one that looks at the yield of the meat (ratio of meat to the total weight of the carcass) and one that looks at the quality (marbling, meat colour, texture, fat colour).

For the yield metric, the beef is categorized either as A, B or C, with A (having the most yield) usually derived from a purebred Japanese wagyu. For the quality metric, the beef is then scored from 1-5, with 5 being the best. In addition, there is also a beef marble score (BMS) that is related to the quality metric, that scores the marbling on a scale from 3-12, where an A5 wagyu would have a BMS of between 8-12, an A4 wagyu would have a BMS of 5-7 and an A3 wagyu would have a BMS of 3-4.

Top: Saga Grade A3 Sirloin ($120++/150g), Bottom: Ohmi Grade A4 Ribeye ($120++/150g)

Ohmi Grade A4 Ribeye

Ohmi Grade A4 Ribeye

To end off our set lunch, we were provided with a scoop of Honeycomb Ice Cream and it was delish. Again, something that I wouldn’t mind ordering ala carte if it wasn’t part of the set lunch.

Given the flawless and reasonably priced set lunch, I can openly say that this has now become my top 2 favourite set lunches locally, the other being Ember (though I haven’t had the chance to revisit after Chef Sebastian left earlier this year).

 Fat Cow

1 Orchard Boulevard, #01-01/02 Camden Medical Centre, Singapore 248649

Tel: +65 6735 0308

Website: http://www.fat-cow.com.sg/





Salt Grill & Sky Bar – Where Memories are Made to Last

8 06 2014

You have to agree that to a large extent, the best litmus test of what constitutes a great restaurant lies in whether or not one remembers the food eaten there, a couple years down the road.

Having been at Salt Grill & Sky Bar two years back for restaurant week, the vivid image of an amazing appetizer, the crab omelette with enoki mushrooms is still left imprinted in my mind. It’s no wonder it’s been kept on the menu through the years as one of the restaurant’s signatures.

I was back here again for an unraveling of the restaurant’s new menu offerings and post-renovation works. Shan’t bore you too much with the nitty gritty details and let the pics do the talking of the restaurant layout. Essentially, the key difference is the repainting of the pillars to a more rustic hue and the relocation of the Sky Bar from the 56th storey (where in its place is now a private dining area) to the mezzanine level (between the 55th and 56th storey).

Private dining area on the 56th storey (2nd level of the restaurant)

As mentioned above, the restaurant is perched on the 55th and 56th floor of Ion Orchard, providing a spectacular view of the Singapore skyline. You can even see MBS in the distance. To access the restaurant, diners will have to take a private lift from the 4th storey of Ion.

Evening view from the restaurant

As this was an invited tasting, most of the dishes served today were tasting portions rather than full portions, just in case you are wondering why the portions look so petite.

The complimentary Bread selection here is made in-house and served with olive oil and dukkah (a mix of Macadamia, Cashhew, Sesame, Cumin, Coriander and Salt).

To kick off our meal, we had the Coconut broth with Sydney spice (Kaffir lime leaves, Lemon Myrtle, Tumeric, Ginger, Galangal, Chili, Garlic and Salt), which tasted much like an amalgam of a rich frothy seafood bisque and green curry. An interesting blend that definitely aroused my appetite.

One of my favourite dishes that night was the Sashimi of Kingfish, ginger, eschalot & goats feta ($33++). While the preparation for the dish is seemingly simplistic, the flavours brought forth were in perfect symphony. I liked how clean the sashimi tasted, indicating it’s freshness. The sweet ginger also paired well with the fattiness of the kingfish. I would already have given it full marks without the feta, as I felt that the pungency of the feta added little extra value.

While not terrible by any standards, the Baby vegetables, goats curd, ginger bread crumbs, dried black olives ($31++) came across as the least impressive among the dishes I had that night.

As a blast from the past, the ‘Glass’ Sydney crab omelette, enoki mushroom & herb salad, miso mustard broth ($33++) remained stellar as ever, with sheets of velvety omelette encasing slivers of sweet crab meat that complemented the briny broth well. The earthly enoki mushrooms also added a nice crunch to the overall texture of the dish.

The Tea smoked quail, almond cream, prunes, grains, grilled shallot, sorrel ($31++) was noteworthy too, made even more impressive by the fact that well-executed quail can be rather hard to come by. I particularly like the flavours of the Earl Grey Tea that was infused particularly well onto the glaze, interestingly it reminded me of the deepness your senses perceive from a Garrett’s Caramel-flavored popcorn sans the sweetness.

In the case where diners are interested to order a steak, the staff may wheel out a trolley of the different cuts available, facilitating the decision making process for diners. For ourselves, we had the 300-day grain fed Sirloin from Rangers Valley, New South Wales, which was marinated with Moroccan spice and served with sauté spinach, eggplant puree and red wine sauce ($74++). With a marbling score of 2+ (out of a possible 5) based on Australian grading standards, what I got was an average quality cut of beef that wasn’t extremely marbled and still required some chewing. Personally, I thought this was appropriate for such a cooking style and as a main course, as an overly marbled piece of beef often leaves one feeling awfully oleaginous after just a few slices.

Another one of Luke’s signatures that we tried was the Liquorice parfait, lime ($18++). While I’m not fans of liquorice, overall the dessert proved to be a success. The outer layer of the parfait was liquorice flavoured but the inner core of the dessert tasted somewhat like an extremely mild frozen cheesecake which effectively toned down the liquorice.

From the various drinks I tried, I would highly recommend the Salt cooler ($14++), a mocktail concocted from Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, lychee, apple, cranberry juice and lemonade. Extremely refreshing without the envisioned tartness nor astringency from the berries.

The restaurant’s signature cocktail is known as The Australian by Luke Mangan ($18++), made from Lime segment, lime leaf, ginger, cognac, gin, cranberry, shaken with Luke’s syrup. Found it a little on the strong side with strong hints of lime.

Cocktails of the day are sold at $15++ and the one featuring that night was The Chocolatini, made from Vodka, white chocolate sauce, green apple syrup and creme de cacao white (Usual Price, $18++). Similar to The Australian, I found this a little on the strong side. On the plus side, this Chocolatini was really thick, unlike some watery versions I have had in neighbourhood bars.

Before calling it a night, I would also recommend having a Grasshopper ($18++), a cocktail made from Creme de menthe, creme de cacao white and milk, tasting much like an “After Eight chocolate” and minty like Colgate, leaving your palate cleansed from the hearty meal.

Grasshopper (Left), Chocolatini (Right), Half-drank Salt Cooler (Far right)

Special thanks to Salt Grill & Sky Bar for the invitation. You made my Wednesday night.

Salt Grill & Sky Bar

2 Orchard Turn, 55 & 56 Floor Ion Orchard, Singapore 238801

Tel: +65 6592 5118





The Sushi Bar – Best Chirashi in Town

25 04 2013

You can call it what you like, cramped or intimate but nothing will change the fact the The Sushi Bar is easily one of the best no-frills Japanese eateries in Singapore. I refrain from saying it’s the best just because I have yet to try every no-frills Japanese eatery in Singapore but frankly, it’s currently my joint favourite place to satisfy my Jap cravings, on par with Aoki.

What I mean by no-frills is not that you have to self-serve but just that it’s the kind of place where non-essentials like expensive furnishings are done away with and letting the reasonably priced food speak for itself. Don’t expect super cheap prices however. It’s still going to be a tad more expensive than places like Sushi Tei but the experience and the quality of food you get here is on a totally different level.

I would highly recommend starting of with one of their signatures, the Scallop Mentaiyaki ($13.90++). Scallop is one of my favourite sashimi but top it off with a rich savoury mentaiko (pollock roe) mayo sauce and poof, heaven on a plate.

Other favourites here would be the Chirashi (sashimi on rice). There are 3 types available to cater for people on different budgets and preferences priced at $18.90, $24.90 and $34.90 respectively. The difference would mainly be the type of sashimi used and maybe the thickness of the sashimi.

For the most affordably priced variant, you get Salmon, Swordfish, Yellowtail, Tuna, Crab, Seared Tuna, Seared Salmon Belly, Ika (Squid), Tako (Octopus), Ebiko (Shrimp roe), Ikura (Salmon roe) and Tamago (sweet egg).

Chirashi ($18.90)

For the $24.90 variant, the main difference is that you get more Ikura and Scallops!

Chirashi ($24.90)

Lastly, for the Premium $34.90 variant, you get additional Uni (Sea Urchin) and a Sweet Shrimp as well. Seriously, what more can you ask for in a Chirashi. The chef is quite flexible so do sound out if you don’t like stuff like tako and seared tuna and they will replace it with similar priced items.

Premium Chirashi ($34.90)

Given that 2 of my friends ordered this again (on top of their Chirashi), it’s safe to say that the Salmon Aburi Roll ($13.90) is worth a try as well.

2 Portions of Salmon Aburi rolls

The Tofu Cheesecake ($4.50) is their sole dessert option on the menu. Not as good as Sun with Moon’s but should still prove to be a delightful ending to an extremely satisfying meal.

Oh another plus point is that all prices here are nett. Queues can get quite long so do try to make reservations.

The Sushi Bar

14 Scotts Road, #03-89 Far East Plaza

Tel: +65 9625 0861





Ito Kacho – A Japanese-Korean styled BBQ that promises to salivate

21 01 2013

Having spent a white Christmas and New Year’s in Korea, I must have gone through quite a few BBQ meals but being on a budget, sad to say I didn’t get to have much premium fare this time round and I was craving some good quality wagyu and kurobuta badly (the black pigs in Jeju Island just isn’t the same as the ones from Japan). So the invitation to dine at Ito Kacho, a Japanese-Korean styled restaurant that specializes in BBQ meats, arrived at the perfect moment.

Barely a month old, it seemed that there were already a few who were in the know of this joint when I dined there on a Thursday night, unperturbed by the relatively extravagant fare (they specialize in wagyu after all). I guess Ito Kacho clearly illustrates the distinction between affordability and value, where an average meal costing $100 while unaffordable by normal standards, might still be considered to be of great value given the premium ingredients used. Of course, it’s possible to dine at Ito Kacho whilst on a budget to, if you stick to items such as their Kurobuta Ramen ($15.80++) but if you are planning to go for their signature BBQ, do be prepared to spend more as they offer mainly premium cuts of meat.

They take their meats really seriously at Ito Kacho. Nothing is left to chance and their Wagyu is air-flown in chilled rather than frozen, ensuring that the nice marbling doesn’t get damaged during the thawing process.

I’m not a fan of kimchi so I would personally avoid ordering the Kimchi Moriawase ($9.90++) aka Assorted Kimchi – Chinese cabbage, cucumber, white radish or the Namuru Moriawase ($8.90++) – Cinnamon fern, white radish, spinach, beansprout. The notion of paying for something that is usually given out free at Korean restaurants just doesn’t seem all that appealing.

The Dashimaki Tamago ($6.90++) wasn’t as sweet as how most Japanese joints do it so it’s great for those who love a mild eggy flavour. Personally however, I would rather save the stomach space for the noteworthy BBQ.

From bottom right clockwise: Kimchi Moriawase, Namuru Moriawase, Dashimaki Tamago

Likewise, the Jikasei Potato Salad ($11.80++) or Homemade Potato Salad was nothing to shout about, very much similar to all the other more affordable potato salads available elsewhere.

Here’s where the fun begins. For beef, we sampled the Wagyu Tomobara ($36/$49++ for 80g or 120g) which is the short ribs also known as kalbi (in korean) or karubi (in japanese), the Wagyu Kainomi ($22/$29++ for 80g or 120g) which is the flap or bottom sirloin, and the US Jo-Karubi ($22/$29++ for 80g or 120g), listed in order of decreasing preference. Wasn’t as charmed by the US Jo-Karubi as it was a little too chewy compared to the wagyu.

What’s so different about wagyu from other types of beef you might ask? I guess there’s many answers to this because they are really worlds apart. Some might metaphorically coin wagyu as beef foie gras, supple and delicate because of the substantial amount of fats that interlace between the lighter than usual colour of beef. For “normal” types of beef, you have a choice to cook it rare all the way to well done but the same cannot be said for wagyu. Given the high fat content, the fats start melting really quickly upon cooking and medium rare should be the furthest you should grill it for so as not to lose the luster of the fats. Personally, I guess when I do go for wagyu, I’m looking for the melt-in-your-mouth feel while for “normal” beef, I go for the immense meaty flavour that materializes when you begin to chew on a piece of steak.

From bottom left clockwise: Wagyu Tomobara, US Jo-Karubi, Wagyu Kainomi

It’s always a joy to eat wagyu but thread carefully, as many restaurants are guilty of sullying the name of the almighty wagyu by using a cheaper cut of cross-bred wagyu, which I believe does not offer the same flavour and texture as the pure breed ones from Japan. The commandment in George Orwell’s  Animal Farm stating that “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal” than others holds true for wagyu as well. Apart from the issue of being fullblood (aka cross-bred) or purebred, another issue one contends with when ordering wagyu is the Grade and Beef Marbling Score (BMS), which both relates to the quality of the wagyu. The Grade (scored from 1-5 with 5 being best) is scored based on marbling, shine & colour, texure & grain and sheen & quality of fat, while the BMS is scored from 1-12 (with 12 being best) and this quality gauge is a key determining factor on how wagyu is priced.

A separate matrix is used to score USDA (US Department of Agriculture) beef, which is usually categorized as “prime”, “choice” or “select”, in order of decreasing quality. The “prime” grade would be the Japan equivalent of a minimum of a Grade 3 or Marbling Score of at least 5.

The Kaisen Moriawase ($36++) is catered for seafood lovers, where you get a good mix of King Crab, Giant Tiger Prawn, Hokkaido Scallop and Squid. Not a fan of King Crab but definitely took to the grilled prawns and hokkaido scallops which were fresh, evident from its sweet flavours and firm textures.

The Boneless Chicken Leg ($9/$12++ for 80g or 120g) is worth ordering as well, which was naturally tender and made even more flavourful with the marinade.

We also tried the Tsubo-Zuke Kurobuta ($19++ for 180g), which is a cut from the collar or neck of a pig. Unlike the beef we had earlier, the pork collar had been marinated for a more pronounced flavour. I wouldn’t have thought that anything would come close to the wagyu earlier but I think that this grilled kurobuta was definitely on par in terms of palatable-ness and tenderness.

We had the Ishiyaki Bibimbap ($15++) as a staple. Nothing extraordinary, just the usual rice mixed with minced Meat, vegetables  dried Seaweed and sesame. I would actually recommend skipping this and just opt for white rice to go with the grilled meats since you can find better Bibimbaps elsewhere.

We ended off the tasting with a simple scoop of Ice Cream ($5.80++). There’s 4 flavours to choose from such as Black Sesame, Matcha, Vanilla and Chestnut (in descending order of preference) and I would suggest sticking to either the Sesame or the Matcha.

What Ito Kacho specializes in, it does really well. Other peripherals might not shine but that’s easily overlooked as you distract yourself with the ooohs and ahhhs of the sizzling BBQ meats.

Special thanks to Ito Kacho for hosting the tasting and Hungrygowhere for coordinating the event.

Ito Kacho

333A Orchard Road, Mandarin Gallery #04-08

Tel: +65 6836 0111





&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





Spruce – Not Just for Brunch

19 06 2012

I drove past Bukit Timah Fire Station a couple of times in the past month and noticed a large banner screaming that a new branch of Spruce was about to open there. Deeply excited, I went over to their facebook page, hoping to catch a glimpse of how the new outlet was going to look like and wow, I was impressed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in operation yet so I found myself back at Phoenix Park.

The New Spruce@Fire Station

Spruce is better known for their brunch, which extends all the way till 4pm, perfect for late risers like me. The last time I was there, I had their version of the Crab Cake Benny ($25++) which left a lasting impression. Today however, I was here for dinner and surprisingly, it wasn’t too crowded despite it being a Sunday. I guess many of the more informed diners are flocking to the newly opened eateries around Singapore. I have been trying to make reservations (as much as 2 weeks in advance) at some of these newer eateries and have been denied of a reservation too many times to keep count. Sigh.

For the love of air-con, I initially made reservations for indoor seating but since the al fresco area was pretty breezy and gave off such homely vibes, I requested to sit outdoors on arrival. Despite the surrounding greenery, there was no sign of mosquitoes. Lucky!

Sharing of mains is a trait frowned upon in most of Europe. I’m just happy this is something Singaporeans have not yet assimilated into our cultures. My party of 4 had 4 mains to share and while such an arrangement usually results in each person taking just a measly spoonful of 3 dishes and having the bulk of the single dish directly in front of him or her, on this occasion we made sure to split each dish into 4 roughly equal portions, which I later found to be an appropriate portion size to take in the full experience of each dish while still being able to enjoy the variety.

We first tucked into theCarnaroli Risotto served with Porcini Mushrooms and Truffled Hen Egg ($24++). Also known as the “King of Rice”, Carnaroli is one of the 3 common types of Italian rice traditionally used to make risottos. The other 2 types are Arborio and Vialone Nano. Carnaroli and Vialone Nano are considered to be the better and more expensive varieties compared to the more commonly used Arborio. Unlike the long grain rice varieties that we usually consume in Chinese cuisine, these short grain varieties of rice have a greater ability to absorb liquids and it’s higher starch content results in a sticky creamy texture on cooking, suitable for making risottos. As for the risotto here, I enjoyed it much. Very hearty with its cooking timed perfectly, the risotto retained a nice mildly chewy texture.

One of the Chef’s recommendations is the Spruce Burger with Homemade Pickles, Cheddar Cheese & Herbed Fries ($18++, add-on Bacon for $2 which we did). The mayo was extra rich, with a noticeable aftertaste that gave an extra kick. The fries are tasty as well after being given a gentle tossing in paprika and other spices.

At the very top of my list, what I would definitely recommend is the Beef Short Ribs served with Spinach & Mushroom in aged Port Wine Sauce topped with Fried Egg ($29++), a combination of foods I hold dear. Beef ribs in western joints are just plain awesome. It’s not the same as those in Korean restaurants, which comes grilled in thin slices and are still stuck to the bone. Beef ribs in western joints come as a slab, something most men would love. K mentioned that the flavours of the saccharine port sauce was overpowering and might get too gelat after a while but I thought it was perfect and would have found no trouble licking the plate clean had my friends and I not decided on sharing our mains.

My least favourite dish was the Baby Back Ribs marinated in Homemade BBQ Sauce served with Tomato & Corn Bread ($33++).  It’s by no means terrible, in fact I would still consider the ribs pretty decent but there was just nothing to wow me with and the meat was a little too lean for my liking.

They weren’t too heavy on the ginger and date flavours for the Baked Ginger Date Pudding ($12++). I thought the Vanilla Ice Cream was superfluous though as the chocolate sauce was a much better accompaniment to the pudding. Plus points for the presentation!

We also shared a Spruce Strawberry Cheesecake ($12++). Nothing to throw your hands up in the air and shout about, but nonetheless a fitting ending to the meal. Anyway random thought, I tried the blueberry cheesecake from Checker’s Deli @ Hilton Hotel the other day and I don’t think it is in the running for best cheesecake in Singapore.

For my other 3 friends, this was their first visit to Spruce and we all left with positive warm and fuzzy feelings.

I’d say Spruce is an ideal place to bring dates; peaceful but not eerily quiet such that it accentuates any awkward silences, with a reasonable booze list to get your date sexy drunk in a conversational mood to talk about important adult affairs.

Spruce

320 Tanglin Road,  Phoenix Park

Tel: +65 6836 5528





Nespresso Boutique @ Ion Orchard – Espresso Tasting

25 03 2012

*This tasting was sponsored by Nespresso

There’s been heated debate going on about whether bloggers should accept tasting invitations. One camp argues that an element of bias will be present for invited meals, ruining the creditability of a blog. That’s why I salute the bloggers who choose to stay objective and blog on their experiences in the guise of a full-paying customer. Yet, I find myself still getting excited whenever I receive such invitations, largely because they signal that there are some people around who appreciate the efforts of my late night blogging, which just makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside.

So apart from the fact that I need that ego boost as a pick me up sometimes, there are other perks in accepting invitations for workshops and tastings (apart from just the free food that most people tend to associate tastings with). Firstly, its the chance to mingle and befriend other like-minded souls who are equally if not more crazily obsessed with food. Secondly, it’s the chance to interact with industry professionals like chefs, barristas and restaurant staff, where you actually get to learn more about certain aspects of dining that you were previously ignorant about.

I attended a Nespresso Tasting today and am pleased to have fulfilled the above mentioned perks, meeting bloggers from The Silver Chef, sgdessert, Superadrianme and DaintyFlair, in addition to learning more about Espresso appreciation. Nespresso is one of the sponsors of Savour 2012 and this invitation was part of their publicizing efforts. They will be down over next weekend during the Savour 2012 event to host an Espresso appreciation class as well should you be interested to attend.

We were first given a tutorial on what makes a good Espresso and one defining element is the presence of a generous layer of “Crema” or what is seen as the hazelnut coloured froth on the surface of your Espresso. The Crema is formed by a mixture of air and liquid and helps to liberate aromas above the cup after extraction, but once it stabilises, it helps to preserve the aromatic richness present in the Espresso instead. To get the perfect Crema, the water must be hot enough, the water pressure high enough and the coffee fresh and grounded finely enough.

Some interest takeaways I learnt today was that the caffeine present in an Espresso is only about half of that present is a standard 240ml mug of drip coffee and that the intensity (bitterness) of a coffee is defined by its degree of roasting (the longer the roast, the more bitter and intense flavour you get) and has no correlation to the amount of caffeine that is present inside.

I have always associated “Grand Crus” with wines but Nespresso also calls its 16 varieties of coffee as “Grand Cru“, possibly because a coffee’s flavour and tones can be just as complex and varied as wines.

Of the 16 types, 3 are Pure Origin Espressos (meaning the beans are sourced from a single location), 7 are Espresso Blends (meaning beans from several locations are mixed to create a unique flavour), 3 are Lungos (Coffees that are meant to be enjoyed in a large cup instead of a 40ml Espresso shot) and 3 Decaffeinated (consisting 2 Espresso flavours and 1 Lungo). Of the 16, I managed to sample 4 different types of Espressos and 1 Limited Edition Espresso that is no longer on sale.

Our planned tasting was to consist of the 3 Pure Origin Espressos, each with its own unique aroma.

We started off with the mildest Espresso of the lot, Dulsao do Brasil. It is supposed to taste of honey, malt and cereals but apart from being rather smooth and not as bitter as I’d imagine, I had some trouble detecting the sweet undertones. A piece of advice we were given was to slurp our espressos as we do our ramens, so as to allow the espresso to splash with around your tongue and provide a burst of flavour.

For our second Espresso, we tried the fruity Rosabaya de Colombia. In describing coffees, NEVER use the term sour unless you are describing coffee that has turned bad. The appropriate term to use is citrus-sy. I was able to detect light winey tinges in this Espresso, so I was quite happy that my palate wasn’t a total flop after all.

In relation to citrus-sy coffees, one of the bloggers asked how do we differentiate good citrus coffees from bad sour coffee. Given that question, we were given another Espresso Blend to try called Cosi. This was a very light Espresso Blend that wasn’t very bitter. What I discovered about this blend is that I didn’t detect the lemony tones until after swallowing the coffee. So it was more of an aftertaste. For spoilt sour coffees, you will be sure to notice right away once it touches your tastebuds. This was probably my favourite of the 4 coffees, probably because I found the citrus-sy flavours unique and easily discernible.

I’m not one for “Kopi Gao” but if you are, you might want to try the Indriya from India, one of the most intense and bitter Espressos that Nespresso has to offer to kick start your morning. As per the Cosi, I only discovered the intensiveness of the Indriya during the aftertaste, where I was taken by surprise with a bitter blast of flavour, causing my face to cringe. I was not the only one though, as I was keeping my eye on the guest seated next to me who had similar reactions.

I also took a look at the various Nespresso machines on sale. The latest model is the Nespresso Pixie, which is better than previous models because of its compactness and certain extra features such as an auto power-off function to save electricity and a light indicator to signal the current level of water in the machine and when it is time to top up with more water.

Truthfully, I always stick to my lattes and cappuccinos, and have often steered clear of espressos, scared that the bitterness will overwhelm me so I was pleased that this tasting gave me a chance to discover the depths of Espresso appreciation that I have yet to unravel.

Special thanks to Nespresso and Crowd PR for hosting the Espresso tasting.

Nespresso Boutique

2 Orchard Turn, #01-14 Ion Orchard








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