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





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





Novus Restaurant II – Avant Garde Contemporary European Cuisine

30 07 2011

*This tasting was paid for by Novus Restaurant

Summer hols. A time for work and a time for play. It has always given me ambivalent feelings. I had always wondered what was it’s purpose exactly? To give undergrads the opportunity to toil away doing internships to boost their CV, or simply a few months break before racing for that elusive illustrious GPA once again? It has always been a compromise, the use of one’s time.

For some friends I know from the SMU Gourmet Club, they have struck a fine balance between both, embarking on a project to publish a food guide during this summer hols, where work meets play. It might sound simple but really, it’s no mean feat, from literally walking the grounds to filter out restaurants to be covered, to getting sponsorships and writing reviews. Having spent most of summer overseas, I was eager to get back and lend a helping hand.

One of the places we are going to cover in our food guide is Novus Restaurant, a fine dining eatery located in the National Museum of Singapore, just opposite the SMU School of Economics and Social Sciences.

Specializing in avant garde Contemporary European cuisine, the absence of the same boring ubiquitous European dishes in Novus’s menu comes as a breath of fresh air and is sure to leave one tingling with anticipation of what’s to come next. A fine dining restaurant with a modern chic interior, Novus’s 2-Course and 3-Course set lunches are priced reasonably at $32 and $40 respectively, a small price to pay for mind-blowing novelty.

Novus bakes their own bread. Kudos to that.

For our complimentary amuse bouche, we were treated to a cooling drink of Beetroot and Ginger with Creme Fraiche.

My favourite starter is the umami-rich and hearty Duck Tea, a clear consommé chocked full of enoki mushrooms, smoked duck breast, quail egg and truffles. This western take of our chinese Bak Kut Teh is great when you are having a hangover.

While Parma Ham is more commonly found in many Singapore restaurants, Novus’s executive chef Stephan Zoisl believes that it is the Joselito Iberico Ham which is the best meat product around the world, as it is aged for 4 years to attain a truly umami flavour. Served with assorted olives, char-grilled capsicum, toasted bread and gazpacho, lovers of Portuguese and Spanish cuisine will definitely take a fancy to this dish.

I’m a fan of all things raw, with no exception to the Black Angus Carpaccio. The raw beef is thinly sliced and sprinkled with summer truffle, truffle scented buffalo mozzarella, chives and topped with a poached egg.

Another appetizer that stood well with me was the Foie Gras Anglaise, but well, I’m a sucker for anything foie gras. It’s served as a custard, like a western chawanmushi, made with duck consomme, goose liver parfait, ginko nuts, truffle, stuffed morels, duck confit, and slices of foie gras that had been previously cooked sous vide style before being pan seared and then incorporated within the custard.

For mains, the Boneless Crisp Duck Confit  is served with organic Quinoa (a grain like crop grown mainly for its edible seeds), black summer truffle, leek, baby spinach and baby turnip. However, I felt the meat was on the tough side and the skin could be slightly more crispy.

Compared to the duck, I much preferred the Snow Cod & Zucchini Flower. Covered in sliced zucchini arranged like scales of a fish, the pretty looking cod cooked in a sous vide style had been only lightly seasoned, allowed its natural flavours to be accentuated. The Zucchini flower served alongside the cod was stuffed with aubergine, tomato and char-grilled capsicum, tasting much like salsa.

Chef Stephan has free reign in the kitchen in naming and experimenting on new dishes, always ensuring his cuisine remains playful and fresh. The Black Angus Beef Meets Black Summer Truffle is a clear indication of his playful wordplay, where black angus tenderloin meets wild mushroom duxelles, black summer truffles, rocket cress and a side of triple cooked fries. The beef is pretty standard stuff, but what enthralled me was the fries. Its preparation is no simple task. The potatoes are first rinsed in cold water, boiled till soft and chilled, then fried to attain a crisp outer crust and chilled a second time. When ordered, it is then deep fried at high temperature to finish. I’m not sure if some truffle oil was used in the deep frying or was the earthly flavour a result of being fried twice, but this is possibly the best fries I have ever sunk my teeth in, with contrasting textures between the crisp outer shell and mashy inner flesh.

My personal favourite dish here however, is their signature Valrhona Chocolate Test, comprising tasting portions of 5 chocolate desserts, namely mousse (38% cocoa), soufflé (55% cocoa), crème anglaise (66% cocoa), truffle (72% cocoa) and sorbet (85% cocoa). It’s best savoured according to the increasing cocoa contents, which effectively minimizes the risk of any high-cocoa desserts from becoming too cloying.

We managed to sample 2 new additions to their dessert menu as well. The Snowball & White Peach Sorbet was a crisp snow ball Meringue stuffed with Pistachio Ice Cream, served atop white peach sorbet and shreds of pomello fruit.

The other new addition was the Verrine of Nectarine, Green Tea & Sauternes, which is daintily served in clear glass, showcasing the multiple colourful layers of sauterne jelly at the base, green tea panna cotta in the middle and nectarine espuma (espuma means foam) at the top, with a blob of vanilla ice cream just lazing away atop a thin biscotti.

Credits to S for taking most of the pictures 🙂

And thanks to Novus for sponsoring this meal for SMU Gourmet Club’s summer publication!

Bon Appetit!

Novus

93 Stamford Road, #01-02 National Museum of Singapore

Tel: +65 6336 8770





[Vancouver] Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar – The Food Orgasm

11 07 2011

Summer School came and went in the blink in an eye and despite spending the most carefree days of my life here in Vancouver, I had been left high and dry in my pursuit for yumyums due to the packed schedule and inertia to travel too far off campus. And as a result of gastronomic imbalances, I found myself a victim of my cyclical PMS (Peter Mood Swings) towards the end of the month.

It starts at Phase 1: The Guilt Trip. That occurs after a flurry of heavy consumer spending, be it on food or shopping. One feels utterly guilty and decides to hold off the splurging temporarily, eating economic rice and at home, forefeiting restaurant meals.

In Phase 2: The Mount of Annoyance, one feels increasingly annoyed because of the absence of nice meals. Economic rice starts to get really monotonous.

This annoyance comes to a climax in Phase 3: Deprivation and Frustration. Some time has passed since the period of excessive spending and one is ready to go out for a posh meal. However, one finds it hard to do so given one’s (or one’s meal buddies) hectic schedules, leading to deprivation. Alternatively, some hyped up meals turned out disappointing, leading to frustration.

In Phase 4: The Food Orgasm, a meal finally hits the spot, but the hefty price tag brings you back to Phase 1: The Guilt Trip.

I haven’t really been having really great food during this Vancouver trip, so dinner here at Blue Water Cafe was definitely Phase 4 for me.

The PMS (Peter Mood Swings) Cycle

Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar specializes in seafood, which is prepared in a “east meets west” fusion nature. The ambience is classy, though no compulsory dress-code is enforced.

To diversify their risks as first time diners here, R and Nana opted for the BC Tasting for 2, comprising tasting portions of 4 appetizers (Dungeness Crab Salad, Scallop Ceviche, Tuna Tatare, and Smoked Salmon Terrine) for 2 pax.

BC Tasting for 2 (C$37)

Cooked within White Asparagus Panna Cotta and topped off with Green Apple Foam, I found little symphony between the mild individual flavours.

Dungeness Crab Salad

Ceviches’ are what I consider to be Central America’s answer to Japanese sashimi. My 2nd favourite amongst the 4 BC Tasting appetizers.

Qualicum Bay Scallop Ceviche

Very similar to the Ahi Tuna I had at the now defunct Raw Kitchen Bar (which has now reopened under the new name “Kilo”), though I find the Albacore Tuna to be much fattier and hence tastier.

Albacore Tuna Tartare

The Smoked Salmon Terrine was served with “Golden Caviar marinated in Sake, Green Onion Creme Fraiche, Pumpernickle & Toasted Filberts”. I was amazed at how “chim” the description was when I read it myself. Pumpernickle is a type of rye bread, and filberts are a type of hazelnut. While this scores average on the taste-o-meter, it does look pretty, no?

Smoked Sockeye Salmon Terrine

Baked with Tomatoes, Olives, Capers and Thyme Lemon Butter, I took pleasure in every bite, wishing if only the scallops could be larger.

Gulf Island Swimming Scallops (C$15.50)

Since its a seafood restaurant, it isn’t surprising that the Kurobuta Pork Cheeks wasn’t up to standard. Cooked in a “Milanese style with Cauliflower Couscous, Golden Raisins, Hazelnuts and Brown Caper Butter”, most of us felt that that the pork cheeks were insufficiently marinated and hence bland. We were slightly appeased as the portion turned out fairly large for an appetizer portion though.

Kurobuta Pork Cheeks (C$16.50)

Noticing that every table had a bowl of sliced lemons, it became clear that one of Blue Water Cafe’s strengths lies in their Oyster Menu, which offers almost 20 different breeds of oysters, originating from British Columbia in Canada, Washington and the East Coast of the US.

Based on the waiter’s recommendations, we tried the Effingham Oysters which the white larger ones and the Kumamoto Oysters which are the dark small ones. R and Nana preferred the Effingham ones which started off with a strong saline taste, before giving way to a subtle sweet aftertaste. I preferred the Kumamoto ones because I’m a fan of distinctly sweet rather than salty oysters and these ones.

Effingham Oysters (C$2.75/piece) and Kumamoto Oysters (C$3.75/piece)

Served with Morel Mushrooms, Artichokes, Pearl Onions and a Madeira (a type of fortified sweet wine) reduction, I found the risotto to be excellent, with the sweet wine complementing the cheesiness well.

Pearl Barley Risotto with Okanagan Goat Cheese (C$24.50)

Given that the lobster was uber fresh and really sweet, this was probably the best lobster dish I have ever tried. A light dip into the cream base and taking a bite out of that crunchy pincer is simply orgasmic.

Poached Live Lobster (C$60)

I’m not really into Halibut because I find the meat too firm and chewy that reminds me of the fish served in airline meals. Still, the crisp pan fried exterior provided some consolation.

Day's Special: Halibut

My first time eating Arctic Char. I found the flesh rather lean and flaky, which is possibly best enjoyed with a light seasoning to appreciate its natural delicate taste. Although it has been touted as an alternative to Salmon, I still prefer the latter which possesses a richer taste and is fattier too.

Arctic Char (C$29.50)

During the past 2 months of traveling, I learnt that there are quite a few species of cod around the world. In Singapore, the “cod” that is usually served is actually Chilean Seabass. In Europe like London, Spain and Portugal, the “cod” used is usually Salt Cod aka Baccala (in Italian) or Bacalhau (in Portuguese). As for Black Cod, it is also known as Sablefish and it was what I had for my main. Glazed with Miso and Sake, this is the best Miso Cod I have eaten, where the flavourful miso had been infused well into the cod without being used over excessively.

West Coast Sablefish (C$36.50)

Although the mains were filling, going at how well the meal had progressed so far, we decided to order a side of Truffle Fries before moving on to dessert. Nothing much to comment about though, apart from the fact that truffle fries seem to taste the same everywhere and loses its novelty quickly. I started feeling kinda “gelat” after about 20 fries. So, this is best for sharing.

Truffle Parmesan Fries (C$9.50)

Finally, time for desserts!

While the desserts weren’t bad by a long short, it didn’t give me the same “oomph” factor that I got while eating the sablefish or lobster mains.

Mandarin Cheesecake (C$12.50) & Warm Dark Chocolate (C$11)

Warm Dark Chocolate (C$12.50), Lemon Tart (C$11.50) & Raspberry Creme Brulee (C$11.50)

Complimentary cakes given to us after we finished our desserts 😀

Truly impressive world-class fare!

But after blowing C$100 on this well deserved meal, it’s time to move back to Phase 1: The Guilt Trip again.

Bon Appetit!

Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar

1095 Hamilton St., Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 5T4, Canada

Tel: 604 688 8078





[Portugal] Cafeina – That’s What I Call A Wine List

5 06 2011

I’m not exactly sure how the name Porto came about but I think there are 2 highly likely possibilities. Firstly, being a coastal town, it might have gotten its name due to its function as a port. In the past, the Portuguese (like the Dutch and Spanish) have also been engaged in lots of sea trade and establishing Portuguese colonies in countries like the Philippines. And in Singapore, we see the descendents of these seafarers with surnames such as De Cruz, De Souza and Pereira.

On the other hand, Porto could have been named as such due to its heavy reliance on the wine and port industry in sustaining its economy. Ok so this leads us to the question of what’s the difference between Port and Wine? For 1, true Port wine is exclusively produced in the region of Douro, Portugal and is a sweet fortified wine, with higher alcohol content than the standard red wine. While we might sometimes spot Madeira (another fortified wine) on the wine list, it is NOT exactly the same as Port as it is only produced on the island of Madeira, Portugal.

source: gofigueira.com

Well, I found out there’s much to learn about Port appreciation and its seemingly never-ending list of classifications (red, white, tawny, vintage, ruby, and just when you thought you knew them all, they suddenly mess you up with a “single-vintage tawny” etc). Hopefully I can cover it another day, maybe in a easy to read tabular form or the like but for now, I guess it’s suffice to know that Port is simply a sweet dessert wine.

Instead of planning a food itinerary beforehand as I did for London and Spain, I decided to be lazy and just go with the flow for this one, relying on hotel reception’s recommendations instead. This is what brought me and my family to Cafeina.  A quick check with tripadvisor and goporto.com confirmed that it was a place worth visiting and so off we went.

Like the Spanish, the Portuguese have their meals pretty late too, with dinners starting typically between 8pm – 9pm. So we were one of the first customers for the night.

Cafeina is a fine-dining establishment with an extensive wine menu which can be assessed using an application on the Ipad provided and it’s really the longest wine list I have ever seen, my estimate is probably at least 400 wines, probably more.

The seafood in Porto is really fresh. I was at the beach near Cafeina and it was low tide. And there were these 3 China ladies picking shellfish at the seashore. And I jest you not, abalone is in ample abundance here and it seems that Caucasians don’t eat it. What a waste! So these 3 ladies managed to fill up 1 large bag with abalones (probably around 7kg worth), 3 or 4 other bags of other clams and shellfish and seaweed within a couple of hours. Along the water’s edge, I could even spot shrimps with my naked eyes that’s how clean the water is. So it goes without saying that the scallops served here would definitely be fresh too!

Scallop & Shrimp Carpaccio

I didn’t get to try the Seafood Bisque in Puff Pastry because my dad dug into it already and was having a sore throat and didn’t want passing his germs to me. Looks good though 😦

I had the Foie Gras Terrine wrapped with Smoked Duck atop some Caramelized Apples. Nothing too impressive about this dish which I felt was too salty with the superfluous duck.

My dad felt his main was a little too tough. I thought it was so so.

Smoked Duck with Potato Rosti

My brother felt his pasta tasted much like Mee Kia. We did enjoy his Tiger Prawns though which were large, fresh and crunchy.

Tiger Prawn Cappelini

My favourite main of the night was the Squid Ink Pasta with Squid and Prawns. Tossed in a light tomato base, the spaghetti was slightly overcooked and soft for my liking but the fresh squids and prawns saved the day.

A run of the mill Pear Tartine.

Highly raved about by the hotel receptionist, we couldn’t leave without trying the Buttery Chocolate Cake. Likely to please those with a major sweet tooth but personally it was much too cloying for me.

Cafeina exhibits some class but fails to deliver the ko blow that would make me want to take a 12 hour flight just for a revisit.

Bon Appetit!

Cafeina

Rua do Padrão 100, 4150 Oporto, Portugal

Tel: 226 108 059








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