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

24 02 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cod Fish

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

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

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

Warm Chocolate Cake ($11.90++)

Roasted Pineapple ($7.90++)

Lemon Meringue Pie ($10.90++)

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake ($8.90++)

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

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

Hippopotamus Restaurant Grill

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

Tel: +65 6338 5352

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The Square @ Novotel Clarke Quay – What’s The Big Deal? Promotion

10 06 2012

Just an update on what this foodie has been up to recently:

It’s currently university holidays now so I’m interning at a private equity firm for 10 weeks and I’m currently in my 6th week now. I would say that the firm I am at is quite unconventional. While most private equity firms function with a high degree of corporate culture (since most of the partners and founders of such firms tend to come from an investment banking or consultancy background), the firm I’m at is pretty “creative”. I go to work in casual attire (tho a polo-t with jeans is the minimum I would tread) unless I have have a nice restaurant dinner scheduled that night (I hypothesize that service staff tend to treat me better in working attire than when I’m in casual attire). There’s a drum set, guitar, keyboard and amps in the meeting room where my colleagues sometimes jam (everyone is musically gifted except me), and sometimes we project youtube using the projector, where my colleagues will play to the beat and I will just sing along. I will be traveling with my colleagues to Korea in July for 5 days (which intern gets to travel overseas during their internship?!) so I’m quite excited as well, and since the trip falls on the last week of my internship, I’m considering extending my stay over there to travel around Korea a bit more since the last time I was there was a decade ago. After that, I will be heading down to Hong Kong, Macau and Hainan Island for a long relaxing 11 day trip till end July before I start school in mid-August.

Apart from internship, there are a few other reasons why my blog posts are coming out in a tad slower than expected. I just started taking up golf lessons with some friends. I’m finding it pretty fun but it takes up quite a bit of time since I try to go twice a week. I also pre-ordered Diablo 3 and am slowing making my way through the game as well. Overall, think summer hols is gg great for me so far 😀

Anyway, I visited The Square on 2 separate tastings as coincidentally, a tasting was also extended to SMU Gourmet Club (that I’m a part of) and I went a second time on behalf of the club, playing the role of the meal photographer, so I guess I have a pretty good idea of what’s good here. The buffet is priced at $38++ for Lunch (Everyday), $48++ for Dinner (Sun-Thurs) and $58++ for Dinner (BBQ nite, Fri-Sat).

Unlike The Line from Shangri la, Carousel at Royal Plaza on Scotts or Triple Three from Meritus Mandarin, admittedly The Square @ Novotel Clarke Quay isn’t very well known for their buffet and most of the patrons here are hotel guests. But with newly appointed Head Chef Jean-Philippe Couturier at the helm, has the buffet spread at The Square been rejuvenated?

I’m not a buffet person per-se. I used to be when I was younger, when the appeal of having free-flow sashimi was still there but now, the elements of authenticity and having freshly prepared dishes seems to take precedence so I have been slowing moving away from buffets. As such, dishes that I find decent here are in my mind, really laudable for buffet standards.

Currently, they are having the What’s the BIG Deal? promotion, where 3-4 BIG dishes are featured every night during dinner such as a variety of risottos cooked a la minute. This promotion lasts till the end of June. They also have an upcoming Father’s Day Special every weekend, where fathers get to dine for free with every 4 dining persons.

On the buffet line, there’s a selection of appetizers to choose from, such as assorted sushi, salmon and tuna sashimi, potato and pasta salad, oysters, chilled prawns & shellfish, brie cheese, club sandwiches, seaweed, golden coin bak kua, ham and parma ham just to name a few.

The Roast Beef at the carving station is pretty good but it requires diners to carve it themselves. Although the intention might have been good, to ensure that the beef does not dry up when left in the open for too long, few people actually take the effort to carve the meat themselves and end up missing out on this splendid roast.

As mentioned above, some of the “big dishes” will be prepared a la minute, with the risottos being one of them. On my first visit, I tucked into the Seafood Risotto which I found rather pedestrian. If only there was a pure-scallop risotto (I’m sure they can whip it up), scallops are my favourite!

However, on my second visit, I received a Vegetable Risotto which came with a side of Parma Ham. I thought this was much better executed than the seafood risotto and something I might consider ordering again. The cheesiness was balanced well with the the hint of tomatoes puree and basil pesto and if the parma ham served with the risotto isn’t enough, just head down to the buffet line to get a refill.

Ironically, my favourite main here is only available from the ala carte menu, the Poached Cod Fillet in Spicy Coconut and Prawn Broth, served with Sauteed Vegetables and Chicken Rice ($34++). The gravy tastes like a creamy sweet laksa sauce with a little more concentration and richness than the usual laksa gravy. This is fusion done right.

The Laksa prepared at their live cooking station falls short when compared to the cod dish. The gravy is a tad too spicy and not as smooth as what you can get from the reputable hawker like Katong Laksa.

The buffet line also features a vast array of other international and local dishes. Other dishes that I found palatable were the Fried Kuey Teow which had a nice “wok hei” character and the Curry Mutton.

As for desserts, the Chocolate Mousse with Mint Chocolate (left of bottom pic) is clearly unrivaled. It is so darn good and chocolatey that it was the only dessert I took that I left none for the ants. Seriously, save stomach space for at least 2 of this, or maybe 3 because it’s the star of the buffet. I would even come back specifically for this if it was served ala-carte. The Green Tea Panna Cotta (bottom left of bottom pic) is not bad as well.

Overall, I would say that the buffet is priced at fair value. The selection and quality might not be as good as some of the more renowned buffet restaurants in Singapore, justifying the more affordable buffet prices at The Square but there are definitely a few gems here that are waiting to be discovered. Coupled with the current What’s the Big Deal promotion, it might just be worth dropping by.

On a random note, guests who stay in the “executive rooms” of Novotel Clarke Quay also get access to their premier lounge, where they get complimentary food and booze (wine included), plus a great view (bottom) from the private balconies in the lounge. I believe the executive rooms are around $60/night more expensive than the standard rooms, so I think its quite a good deal to just upgrade since you get a larger room and I’m pretty sure most of us can guzzle $60 worth of booze a night easily.

Special thanks to Novotel and John for hosting an enjoyable evening.

The Square

177A River Valley Road, Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay Level 7

Tel: +65 6433 8790








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