La Maison Fatien – Past its Prime

31 08 2014

When French bistro La Maison Fatien first opened shop over 2 years ago, I remember how hard it was to even secure reservations. The food was great then and the setting dim and intimate, especially on the 2nd floor. So when I found out that Amex Platinum card users could get a 50% discount off ala carte items here (more details below), I jumped at the opportunity, heading down for dinner after work on a Tuesday night.

Dinner started off with a complimentary amuse bouche of what I assumed to be Pork Rillette. Didn’t really enjoy it because the fat tasted somewhat stale and left an unpleasant aftertaste. The Fatien family actually runs a wine merchant business back in Burgundy, France, so we ordered a carafe of their Pinot Noir ($68++), which equates to about 2.5-3 glasses. Sadly, booze is relatively pricey here and is not applicable for the Amex card discount.

Almost identical to the one at Stellar @ 1-Altitude was the homemade Twice-baked Cheese Souffle with Baby Apple, Gruyere Sauce and Mesclun Salad ($27++). Crisp on the outside, puffy on the inside, this was certainly the highlight of our night.

Decided to err on the side of caution and stick to a French staple, the Pan-seared Foie Gras on Brioche served with Gastrique Glazed, Apple Compote, Mesclun Salad and Nuts ($27++). Unfortunately, the foie gras was overcooked and the exterior wasn’t crisp enough either. The apple compote also lacked the tartness required to complement the liver.

The mains failed to impress as the Char-grilled Pork Rack with Lentils, Glazed Vegetables, Onion Fondue and Orange Balsamic Sauce ($36++) lacked character and flavour. The Crispy Skin Duck Confit with homemade Celeriac Mash, Fine Beans and Duck Jus ($33++) fared slightly better but better executions can be easily found elsewhere.

However, I did like our side order of the Truffle Fries ($10++). The cut of the fries was somewhere in between shoe string and chunky, so you really get the best of both worlds, thick enough to get a nice bite but narrow enough to get sufficient crisp on the exterior.

Ended our meal with a pleasant but unmemorable order of Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce ($24++). The portion was huge and meant for sharing evidently. With more misses than hits, I’m inclined to believe that La Maison Fatien has past its prime. A friend mentioned to me that there has been a reshuffling in their staff recently and this might explain why our recent experience was so different from two years back.

To shed some light on Amex dining promotions, Amex Platinum Card holders are currently offered free memberships to two dining programs, the Classic Far Card Membership and the Palate Program. Under these two programs, card holders get the opportunity to enjoy significant discounts at over 80 restaurants and bars, such as Jaan, Mikuni, Prego, Forlino and il Lido just to name a few. Over and above the above two mentioned programs, card users will also get additional dining benefits under the “Platinum Private Deals”. Of course, terms and conditions apply. More details on the two dining programs are listed below:

palate card
 
Far card

 

In addition, from now till 9 November, 2014, Platinum card members will also get the chance to be one of five lucky winners daily to win $100 worth of Tunglok dining vouchers for the Monday-Saturday draws and $100 worth of Fairmount dining vouchers for the Sunday draws. Each receipt above $50 earns card users 1 chance to win, with doubling of chances for receipts from any The Far Card or Palate establishment.

This meal was sponsored by Amex.

Advertisements




[Paris, France] L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile – A Slight Disappointment

16 10 2013

If you are on the streets using googlemaps, the entrance to Joel Robuchon Etoile couldn’t be harder to find. We were looking out for some indications of a posh looking restaurant but there was nothing that even vaguely hinted to where the restaurant was. We finally discovered it was inside a bookstore, very much like how there used to be a cafe inside the now-defunct Borders bookstore at Wheelock place. Truly an unexpected location for a restaurant holding two Michelin Stars.

Lounge area

Set lunches are priced fairly at 42 Euros / 62 Euros / 82 Euros for 3, 4 and 5 courses (exclusive of the amuse bouche course) respectively.

The kitchen operates on an open concept to allow patrons to better appreciate the efforts taken to prepare their food. It also allows for easier interaction with the friendly servers.

One of the few noteworthy dishes of the meal was our amuse bouche, a 3 layered shot of warm foie gras mousse topped with port wine sauce and parmesan foam. Definitely a winning combination with a well thought out layering sequence for a perfect transition of flavours. As the spoon entered my mouth, I first detected the rich fatty liver mousse, subsequently complemented by sweet port sauce, with the journey ending off with a savoury airy foam. One of the most blissful few seconds in recent years.

The Mackerel appetizer was one of our server’s recommendations and that’s what I got. My friends took quite a liking to it but personally, I was severely disappointed. While the flesh was rather tender, the skin lacked an adequate sear and turned out soggy. The belly portion wasn’t as fatty as I would have liked either and the fish was rather cold by the time I dug in (which could also be the reason why the skin was soggy). I guess the plus points for the dish was the delicious mustard sauce and visual vibrancy.

M got himself the Maine Lobster with Sugar Lettuce (11 Euros supplement). I preferred this to the fish but again, it didn’t stand out much.

I also had a side order of the Foie Gras with French Sourdough (29 Euros). I found the texture of the foie gras pretty smooth compared to the ones I have at more casual diners during my trip but I didn’t fancy the accompanying compote.

For main, I had the Chicken with Tuna Sauce. The chicken breast was sliced thinly and awfully tender. The tuna sauce was unexpectedly smooth as well. While the execution was flawless, it did seem a little simplistic for such a reputable French restaurant.

M had the Iberico Pork (11 Euros supplement) which was extremely tough. He feedbacked that the sauce was marvelous though.

Another well-executed but simplistic dish was the Deep-Fried Whiting Fish. It was the best “Fish without the Chips” that I have had with outstanding freshness of the fish and extraordinarily light batter.

All mains were served with a heavenly velvety mash.

Desserts as a whole was very meh, especially the Mango Mousse and Yoghurt with Papaya Coulis.

I made the correct choice picking the Coffee dessert, comprising of a Coffee Jelly base, Cocoa Crumble, Chantilly Coffee and Coffee Ice Cream. What I liked most was the playful integration of textures.

Mango Mousse

Yoghurt with Papaya Coulis

Frankly, I’m on the fence about this one. The food is by no means terrible but my elevated expectations were not met during this luncheon. In my humble opinion, for the same price paid, there are better alternatives in Paris. On the other hand, raising the pot and opting for their degustation menu might produce significantly better results.

PS: There is a small booth near the restaurant entrance selling Pierre Herme macarons which perhaps warrants dropping by if your desserts don’t turn out as well as planned. The Arc de Triomphe is a 3 minutes walk from the restaurant, so plan your itinerary accordingly if you are a visiting tourist.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile

133 Avenue des Champs-Elysees

Tel: +33 0147237575




Saint Pierre @ Sentosa Quayside – Saturday Brunch Menu Unveiled

6 06 2013

Saint Pierre has officially moved to its new location at Sentosa Quayside last week. While you might not have heard of them before, I’m sure other names such as Brussel Sprouts which does fine tasting mussels, Picotin, SQUE Rotisserie at The Central @ Clarke Quay or Rocks Urban Grill & Bar @ The Sail might ring a bell. What these eateries share in common is their chef/owner Emmanuel Stroobant.

I tried Saint Pierre’s set lunch 3 years back when it was still housed in Central Mall and didn’t think much of it then but that visit was prompted after having the best lobster bisque I have had to date at one of Chef Stroobant’s now-defunct restaurants The French Kitchen, so I really didn’t know what to expect now.

Saint Pierre’s Saturday Brunch Menu

While primarily operating as a French fine dining restaurant, Saint Pierre additionally serves Saturday Brunch and Sunday Semi-buffet Roasts (priced at $68++/adults, $38++ for children aged 4-9), during lunchtime (11.30am to 3pm) to cater to the weekend crowd. On this occasion, I was here to review their Saturday Brunch menu.

I much prefer the setting of its new premises, which overlooks the yachts moored at the Sentosa Marina. The vibes I got was far friendlier and less stifling compared to its previous premise, so its definitely a lot more inclusive with regards to clientele now, catering to dates, family outings with kids and mere catch up sessions with friends.

As usual, I couldn’t decide which ala carte brunch main to get so I just opted for the Brunch Set ($38++), which includes a glass of Fruit Juice (Watermelon, Carrot or Orange), Homemade Assorted Breads, a Choice of Main from the brunch ala carte menu and Coffee/Tea.

Initially I thought that the assorted bread was just going to be small bread rolls but what came over was a basket of Ciabatta, Brioche and Croissants, with homemade jams and a wad of butter. Of the 3 types, the brioche was my favourite followed by the croissant, though both aren’t items that I would particularly come back for.

My favourite brunch item was the Eggs Benedict ($24++). Instead of sourdough, brioche is used instead so if you like your breads buttery, you would probably enjoy this as I did. The Hollandaise Sauce too was richer than what I have had in other places. Iberico Bellota ham is used in this dish as well and it’s a higher grade of iberico ham because the pigs are fed with acorns rather than the normal corn feed. My only reservation about this dish was the poached egg. Not sure if it was on purpose but both my eggs yolks had a similar texture to the ramen egg yolks, which was more viscous than expected. Either way, it didn’t really bother me as this rendition of eggs ben tasted great!

I wasn’t a fan of their Scrambled Eggs ($22++) topped with black truffles as it was rather salty for my liking.

The Beef Parmentier ($18++) came as a recommendation from the staff. Essentially, its thinly cut slices of corned beef with onions over a bed of mash. Personally, it felt slightly heavy as a brunch dish as the mash was rather dense. I would love to see it as a staple during Saturday evening BBQs though.

CJ was quite excited when she saw the Waffle ($18) on the menu but it was far from what she expected. Instead of the common saccharine dessert waffles, this one was a mix of sweet, sour and savoury, with the ice cream replaced by foie gras mousse, apple compote & vanilla beans. Still pondering whether the dish is creative or confused but I would probably have found the mousse and apple compote more suitable on a brioche instead.

Would I recommend Saint Pierre’s brunch? Well, the food is pretty average in terms of taste, quirky, classy but average. The main draw then would be the ambience. If you haven’t been to Quayside, please mark in down somewhere on your calendars, it’s a really awesome chill out place…think Keppel Bay but with more restaurant choices.

This meal was sponsored by Saint Pierre. Special thanks for hosting the tasting.

Saint Pierre

31 Ocean Way, #01-05 Quayside Isle

Tel: +65 6438 0887





[Hong Kong] Caprice – A Michelin 3-Star French Luncheon

3 08 2012

Located at The Four Seasons Hotel, Caprice is one of the 2 French restaurants in Hong Kong that have been awarded the prestigious Michelin 3-stars (the other being Atelier de Joel Robuchon).

Few can dispute that Caprice is undeserving of such an honour, not after setting foot into the restaurant. Greeted by a team that is attentive and well versed with the restaurant’s offerings, one is led into opulent settings where Swarovski chandeliers hang overhead. As one enters the restaurant, the first thing that catches the eye is the open kitchen with the chefs all hard at work and as you look around towards the windows, you catch a gorgeous view of the Victoria Harbour. It does seem that Caprice spares no expense in ensuring that the ambience is right for that special occasion.

If one should decide to dress up for a meal, this would be the time to do so. Nothing is going to be much fancier than this.

Given the posh setting and accolades, it is no surprise that meals here don’t come cheap. The more “affordable” set lunches are priced at 460/520 HKD for 2 or 3-course meals respectively while dinners can work up to easily 3 times that price without wine.

We were served an “Anchovy Cake” as our amuse bouche, which tasted much like warm fish keropok. It’s tasty but I expected something a little more sophisticated.

Of the 4 varieties of bread (from top left anti-clockwise – Olive, Baguette, Sourdough and Sesame), it was clear that the Sesame was our favourite. It’s done very much like a croissant, just much airier. Not wanting to stuff myself prematurely, I was the only one on my table who had the discipline to stop at 1, while my counterparts were so taken by this that they downed an average of 5 each!

We were also given Bordier Butter (salted and unsalted) to go with our bread, a premium French hand-churned butter that is considered by many to be the finest in the world.

My friends Joyce and Randall had the Rockfish Consomme, Saffron Infusion & Fish Rillette for appetizer. The taste of the broth seems so surreal to me now as I merely sampled a mouthful of its umami goodness. I was distraught after I tasted it, realizing that my appetizer didn’t even come close in terms of execution and flavour. The Fish Rillette was just so-so compared to the consomme, tasting like a crabcake mash.

Kenneth had the Marinated Salmon, Avruga & Lime Caviar, Tarama, Bottarga & Salmon Roe. Personally, I thought it was just an over-glorified piece of Cured Salmon that was no doubt tasty but overly simplistic.

I had the Paimpol White Bean Veloute & Duck Foie Gras Tartine. The word veloute stems from the french adjective velour, which means “velvety” but this white bean veloute was far too heavy and starchy to be described as such. Served on the side was the Duck Foie Gras Tartine, comprising mainly of white beans with slivers of foie gras terrine on a thin toast. While it had an appetizing sourish zing to it, I couldn’t appreciate its pairing with the veloute.

While there were 7 choices of mains to choose from, it so happened that all 4 of us chose the Free-ranged Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras, Mushrooms & Spinach in Civet Sauce, which sounded the most authentically french and hardest to replicate amongst the other choices. It was a good call indeed as this turned out to be the star of the meal.

I have had bad experiences with foie gras stuffings, such as the DB Burger from DB Bistro Moderne where the foie gras stuffing turned out tasteless and dry but the stuffing for the quail wasn’t like this at all. There was no pungent aftertaste and its flavours managed to infuse into the tender juicy quail meat that had been cooked perfectly to a light pink hue. The civet sauce tasted similar to a red wine sauce you would get off a coq au vin, but perhaps been thickened slightly with the addition of blood.

For wine, we requested a bottle of semi-dry red to go along with our quail and the sommelier suggested the Chateau Rollan de By, 2006 (780 HKD). It’s from Medoc, a wine growing region in Bordeaux and made up of a blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc, and 10% Petit Verdot. I found it very drinkable with a medium fruity body which indeed complemented the quail.

For desserts, I had the Saint Honore of Chocolate Trio & Cinnamon in Spiced Mexican Sauce, comprising 3 chocolate profiteroles & varying degrees of chocolate mousses on a filo pastry which is then finished with an extra layer of chocolate sauce. So much chocolate must have made this dessert cloying right? Wrong, the chocolate mousses were really light and there was sufficient pastry to soak up all the chocolate sauce.

Joyce and Randall both got the Cherry Marmalade & Sandalwood Cream with Griotte Sorbet, very much a sandalwood panna cotta topped with Cherry Sorbet and Marmalade.

Kenneth had the Caprice Cheese Cellar, a very generous platter of 4 types of cheese. I wasn’t paying much attention when the server was going through the cheeses as I was desperately trying to take some quick snaps of the other desserts that had meltable features but 1 cheese did catch my attention – giraffe cheese. It wasn’t my cup of tea though, as I prefer milder cheeses.

We ended off the meal with coffee, tea and petite fours (Strawberry Macaroon, Banana Chocolate, Irish Dark Chocolate) at 4pm. Time had whisked by so quickly but the staff didn’t seem annoyed that we had unknowingly stayed past lunch hour.

Good food, chichi settings and superb service. If there’s only 1 thing more I could ask for, it’s probably a little more creativity.

Caprice

8 Finance Street, Central, Four Seasons Hotel

Tel: +852 3196 8888





Le Saint Julien – French at its Finest

23 03 2012

We all have meal spending thresholds. Most people will try to stick within the range of $5-$10 for daily routine meals, $10-$25 for gathering-type meals and perhaps $25-$40 for celebratory occasions. This is probably the reason why I have trouble sometimes finding lunch kakis’ when I want to go out for a nice lunch out of the blue.

I guess it’s because of this blog and my routine uploads of food pictures on facebook that leave many people assuming that my meal spending threshold is non-existent but sadly, that is purely a myth. That is why Restaurant Week is so important to me. While not every participating restaurant offers a huge discount off their usual set meal prices, some do take the effort to cater to the humbler than usual crowd and Le Saint Julien is one of the latter.

Before today, I would never dream of dining at Le Saint Julien without a reason to celebrate. An ala carte meal without wine would probably set you back $150-$200! Prices of their 3-Course Set Lunches and 6-Course Set Dinners are slightly more palatable at $46++ and $168++, though I would still think think twice if it were just a regular meal to catch up with friends. After lunch today however, I have to admit my propensity to spend at Saint Julien has been elevated somewhat.

There’s a nice lounge and bar area to have an aperitif should you arrive ahead of your guests. I was browsing through Saint Julien’s website when I came across their wine outlook, where I saw the phrase “$60 for 750ml”. At the back of my mind, I was like “Wa, that’s super reasonable for a fine dining restaurant!”. Then reality struck, it was the corkage charges…

Walking into the main dining area, what you see is sleek furnishings and a high ceiling. This is important so that it doesn’t get too noisy as the crowd starts streaming in. Ms Edith Lai, wife of Chef Julien Bompard, whizzes around the restaurant ensuring everything is in order. She has after all been in the hospitality industry for much of her career and given the level of professionalism and training of her wait staff, we know we are in good hands.

Diners aren’t given much flexibility for the Restaurant Week 3-Course Set Lunch Menu. Appetizers and Desserts are fixed, while there are 2 choices for Mains. An extra course can be ordered at an additional price of $26-$32++, depending on which additional course (Foie Gras, Lobster Bisque or Escargot) is chosen. I decided against it as I have already overkilled my dining budget for this and next week.

We started off the meal with the Slow Cooked Egg with Foie Gras Emulsion, Mushrooms and Black Truffle Oil. Initially, I thought the Foie Gras Emulsion was the white liquid in the cup but it was actually the thin layer of brown paste coating the brioche and it totally blew me away. The white liquid is actually just the whites of the Slow Cooked Egg. I wasn’t paying attention when the wait staff explained it to us, but I’m certain this is no normal soft boiled egg as the yolk is semi-solid while the whites are extremely delicate and runny. Typically for soft boiled eggs, it would be the reverse. I could definitely detect the traces of truffle oil in the egg cup as well, which is an added treat.

We are lucky that Aries chose the Roasted Daurade Fish with “Arbois” Wine and Avruga Caviar Sauce as her main, as it makes for a lovely picture. Daurade is more commonly known as Sea Bream or Tai, a mild tasting fish. I would say that on its own, it is unspectacular, but with the creamy gravy, we swooned. This just highlights the importance of synergizing different elements of a dish. Just fyi, Arbois is a type of white grape found in France and is considered one of the less acidic grape types. I haven’t really heard of it before because it’s a minor grape, compared to the ubiquitous Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.

For the rest of us, we opted for the Braised Pork Belly with Sauerkraut in Filo Pastry, served with Apple Calvados Sauce instead. We all wondered how Chef Julien managed to transfer the pork filled filo pastry onto the plate, as the pastry crust was paper thin, shattering upon light proding. The pork belly was savoury and flavourful, balanced well by the sour zing from the Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) at the base of the pastry, as well as the mildly sweet apple brandy sauce.

The Parfait with Banana, Chocolate and Pralines came with slightly disjointed elements, especially the Chocolate Almond flavoured (for want of a better word I shall just use) biscuit, whose presence I thought was totally unnecessary. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the Parfait which was banana flavoured. The caramelized banana was nice, tasted more alcoholic than sweet (perhaps soaked in alcohol before caramelizing?), but still just an accessory adorning the main attraction (the parfait).

Despite being a discounted Restaurant Week lunch, this experience was definitely memorable enough to justify adding Le Saint Julien to my list of favourite restaurants. After all, if $47 bucks got me all this, just think what a $168 set dinner will get me?

Le Saint Julien

3 Fullerton Road, The Fullerton Water Boat House

Tel: +65 6534 5947





Antoinette (Mandarin Gallery) – Of Surprises and Letdowns

1 02 2012

Despite being open for business for less than a year, Antoinette has already proven its mettle. Its marketing strategy has worked in its favour, having a classy name and luxurious store layout with a moderated price tag on its food has definitely drawn in the crowd. It does help that the man behind this venture is none other than award-winning ex-Canele pastry chef Chef Pang Kok Keong.

I popped by Antoinette about a week back for a meetup between my clique of Secondary 1-2 friends, as D was flying off to Spain for his exchange program the next week and its been really almost a year since our last gathering. As it was an early Saturday afternoon, no surprise that we had to wait about 45 minutes before we could snag a table, especially since Antoinette functions primarily as a tea lounge rather than restaurant, where customers come in to have their nice little tete a tete sessions over an all day breakfast and dessert. Something interesting we noticed was the severe disproportion of guys to girls ratio here. There were only 2 other guys in the entire filled restaurant! So we might have seemed a little out of place coming as a group of 5 guys (we came from an all-boys secondary school booyah!).

Anyways, with no complaints about the gender distribution of clientele,  we proceeded to order our mains. My personal favourite was the Gnocchi Carbonara ($18.50++), “Parisan Gnocchi sauteed with Caramelized Bacon, White Wine Cream Sauce, served with Poached Egg and Aged Parmesan Cheese”. Gnocchi is typically a small dumpling shaped pasta made with flour and potatoes, but from what I have read online, the ones served here does away with the potatoes but includes gruyere cheese to get that awesome taste and texture. A light pan frying after blanching secures its crisp outer layer and mildly chewy interior. The cream sauce resembles that of Canele’s Carbonara to me, which I find quite delightful because it doesn’t coagulate quickly but still manages to retain its flavourfulness. Something I also like about this carbonara is that the bacon is not the least bit salty to me, so you get to savour the meaty juicy goodness without overwhelming the mild cream base.

If cream is just not your thing, you can try the Gnocchi Forestiere ($18.50++), “Parisan Gnocchi sauteed with onions and an assortment of Field Mushrooms in a Pink Tomato Sauce with Italian Parsley and Aged Parmesan Cheese” instead. The tomato base doesn’t complement the gnocchi as well though and it’s a little too overpowering as well, blocking off the delectable morsels of gnocchi.

The crepes are done decently here, which I find it better than what is available at Canele. There’s 5 savoury crepes to choose from here, of which we tried the Nordic Crepe ($16.50++), made with Smoked Salmon, Capers, Red Onion and Dill Cream Cheese.

It definitely wasn’t my idea to order the Burger Royale ($18++), “Pan Fried Beef Patty on Brioche Bread, Mayonnaise, Home-made Tomato Relish, Lettuce, Red Onions, Mustard, Aged Cheddar Cheese, Chips and Petit Salad with House Dressing”. After all, who orders a burger in a french tea lounge?! That said, this Beef Burger exceeded expectations with a nice juicy and flavourful patty though I would have preferred the usual burger buns to the brioche used.

We had very mixed reviews on the Wild Mushroom Risotto ($24++), “Creamy Arborio Rice simmered with exotic Field Mushrooms & White Wine, garnished with crispy Serrano Ham”. For myself and H, it was probably our least favourite main of the meal, but to my other friends S, D and YQ, it was their favourite. The reasons why it didn’t suit me was because the risotto was rather one-dimensional and too mild in taste for my liking. I’d prefer a cheesier oomph!

We love to pamper ourselves once in a while, and there’s no better way than to have feast on dainty little desserts.

The issue with cakes coated fully in a chocolate mousse is that they are an enigma, you never know what you are going to find as you dig your fork deeper into its core. The signature Antoinette ($9++) is one such cake. Having not researched on Antoinette prior to this meal, I was going in blind on this one. I grazed my fork against the velvety milk chocolate lining the cake for a taste test. Nothing unusual, I thought to myself, the chocolate’s texture is just a little too thin. A deeper prodding of my fork this time, where is that bitter taste coming from? My doubts were confirmed when YQ mentioned it was earl grey. The ball-shaped protrusion is actually raspberry coulis (a thick french sauce made from fruits). I find too many things going on in this cake which leaves me slightly confused. Somehow the mix of sweet chocolate mousse, bitter earl grey and sour raspberry doesn’t work for me.

I’m more a fan of the Strawberry Shortcake ($8++). The sponge is light and the use of strawberries generous. However, still not as good as the orgasmic one from One Caramel.

There have been some mixed reviews about the Macaroons here. I managed to try 5 different types (Antoinette, Chloe, Passionfruit, Pistachio and one more I can’t recall), of which the Antoinette (tastes of white chocolate) is my favourite.

 

Mont Blanc is a common French Dessert made using pureed chestnuts and cream. I’m not sure if its the case of the Mont Blanc ($8.50++) here being too average, or the one at Flor Patisserie by Chef Yamashita being too good. Might be a little of both or the fact that I might seriously be pampered too much.

Overall, I like Antoinette. The gnocchi carbonara is reason enough to come back, not to mention the nice semi-atas vibes you get here. Sadly, I expected more from their desserts which failed to shine through today.

Bon Appetit!

Antoinette

333A Orchard Road, #02-33/34 Mandarin Gallery

Tel: +65 6836 9527





Restaurant Ember II – My Favourite Set Lunch

19 08 2011

There’s no better way to kick off the first week of school with luncheon at my favourite restaurant in Singapore, Restaurant Ember at Hotel 1929, a boutique hotel in Outram.

Priced at $39.50++ (excluding the additional supplements for certain options such as Foie Gras), Ember’s 3-course set lunch perfectly illustrates the difference between what it means to be “affordable” and what it means to be “value for money”. I’m sure no one would call a $50 lunch affordable, but given that the set menu features dishes that are way more premium, and choices way more extensive than the usual set lunches found elsewhere, I believe Ember’s set lunch is one of the most “value for money” in Singapore.

While it caters predominantly to the older working crowd, my young friends and I were still accorded with attentive service which I gratefully appreciate. I think this is where the absence of a tipping culture in Singapore comes into play, allowing everyone to be treated more or less equally and without bias in restaurant settings.

Friend Melvin had the Pan-roasted Scallops with Parma Ham, Citrus and Tarragon Vinaigrette. During my summer break over the past 3 months, I took the opportunity to travel to Europe and the States and feasted on really jumbo fresh scallops which were probably caught on the day itself, and that has given me a whole new perspective on how scallops should taste like. Compared to those, the ones at Ember are seared well but slightly petite and not as sweet but Melvin did mention he liked the accompanying citrus sauce.

The Roasted and Poached Foie Gras with Mirin, Shoyu and Shiitake (supplemet $6) is actually the main reason why I decided to come back and will continue to do so in the future. Perhaps it’s the result of the combination poaching and roasting which makes it all the more melt-in-you-mouth than the usual pan seared foie gras. And in my opinion, the savoury shoyu and mirin complements it surprisingly better than the renditions of caramelized apple sauce, citrus sauce, raisin sauce, prune compote etc that I have tried elsewhere.

Ember also has one of the best duck confits around. The duck skin here is the most crisp from all duck confits I have tried, crackling like a keropok when chewed. The duck meat is moist and supple and the gravy, rich and sinfully heavy. Heart attack on a plate…but so very worth it.

While I’m very fond of the Marinated Cod with Black Miso, Sweet Peas & Herbed Potatoes, Samuel found its sweetness slightly too gelat, especially after eating the very savoury mirin foie gras.

Having tried the Miso Cod on my last visit, I decided to order the Pan-seared Chilean Seabass with Mushroom and Smoked Bacon Ragout, and Truffle Yuzu Butter Sauce. The fatty flesh flakes off easily and goes well with the creamy base and earthly mushrooms.  It’s hard to say which fish dish I love better though, given their stark contrast between sweet vs creamy savoury but the Chilean Seabass does make for a better picture.

I do note that ever so often, people tend to mix up Chilean Seabass (aka Antarctic Cod though less commonly used) with Sablefish (Black Cod which was used in the Miso Cod dish) and it isn’t surprising, given that both are white fatty fishes that carry a similar awesome taste. Adding on to the confusion are some restaurants that simply label their dish cod but serve Chilean Seabass. While there’s no litmus test to tell the difference between the two, I do find that Black Cod tends to be more fatty and its flesh tears apart more easily than the Chilean Seabass. At the moment, the Chilean Seabass is fast becoming extinct, so I have come across some restaurants that advocate a no Chilean Seabass policy and switching to use Black Cod instead.

My personal favourite dessert here so far is the Crispy Caramelized Pear Tart with Homemade Bailey’s Ice Cream. The layers of Filo pastry are paper thin yet not made soggy one bit from the caramelized pears, maintaining its crispiness well. Perfect even without the ice cream but who’s complaining?

For the more risk averse, play safe by ordering the Warm Valrhona Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. It’s really one of the best around.

I was having a slight cough so I ordered the less heaty Homemade Fig Cake with Grand Marnier Ice Cream. I think this replaced the Sticky Date Pudding that was previously available here, and tastes rather similar to it anyways. It’s decent, but falls short to the previous 2 desserts.

Tea (choice of several types) or Coffee is also included within the set meal 🙂

While good restaurants tend to get most dishes right, I have hardly encountered any that gets everything right. Ember is one of those rare gems and that’s why it’s my favourite restaurant, serving my favourite set lunch.

Bon Appetit!

RESTAURANT EMBER

50 KEONG SAIK ROAD, HOTEL 1929

TEL: +65 6347 1928








%d bloggers like this: