Amici Authentic Italian Restaurant – An overpriced neighbourhood joint

20 05 2013

Standing proud at a discreet corner of Holland Village is old dame Amici. She has been around for 13 years and counting, entrenching her status as a veteran in Italian cuisine.

Amici means “friends” in Italian and how apt it is as I personally find it to be an ideal place for long undisrupted catch up sessions in the hustle and bustle of Holland V. Meals at Amici exhibit a stark contrast compared to other popular spots in the vicinity such as Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao (which does an affordable steamboat and XLB buffet) and Everything With Fries, as meals here feel a lot less hurried, contributed partially by the cosy, rustic and rather quiet interior of the restaurant. On the other hand, sad to say that much of their food didn’t impress.

We started off dinner with the Deep Fried Calamari ($13.90++/small or $19.90++/large). As with Amici’s rendition, I too like my calamari on the tender delicate side, where a light batter is used and chewing is made minimal. A creamy aioli dip on the side undoubtedly enhanced the palatability of the dish.

Next came the Saute Vongole ($17.90++) aka clams served with white wine sauce and chili. While similar in taste to the steamed lalas’ in spicy sauce one can easily find in Chinese Seafood restaurants or in an East Coast Park hawker stall, the vongole at Amici differs slightly as the spiciness level of the gravy has been toned down a notch, so that diners get a greater sense of the natural bittersweet flavor from the clams.

The undisputed best dish for the night was the Crabmeat pasta with garlic, olive oil & chilli ($27.90++). Cooked to a lovely al dente, the amalgam of flavours exuded by the briny crabmeat, oil and spice left me hankering for more.

The Oven-baked black cod fillet crusted with butter Herbs and garden greens ($36.90++) was pleasant but unexciting and easily forgettable.

Amongst the 4 cheeses (Gorgonzola, Buffalo Mozzarella, Scamorza and Ricotta) in the Pizza 4 Formaggi ($26.90++) aka 4 Cheese Pizza, what resounds most distinctly was the Gorgonzola, a type of Blue Cheese. However, compared to some other 4 Cheese Pizzas I have had, this one comes across as relatively mild. I wouldn’t consider pizzas to be Amici’s strong point given that the thin crust was quite soggy.

We ended with the award-winning Tiramisu. It’s hard to say if it’s worth the hype however as our individual opinions of it were incongruent. Some of my dining companions loved it while I thought it was meh. The main gripe I had was that the Ladyfingers biscuit, the spongy cake used within a Tiramisu, was overly soggy which dampened my spirits as well, pardon the pun.

I don’t consider Amici to be anywhere near the best for Italian dining in Singapore. It’s an overpriced neighbourhood Italian joint, nothing more nothing less.

This meal was hosted and paid for by Amici.

Amici Authentic Italian Restaurant

275A Holland Avenue, Holland Village

Tel: +65 6469 9989

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Michelangelo’s – 17 Years Young and Counting

25 03 2013

With the rapid succession of comings and goings in the Singapore food scene, few establishments can boost about having a 17-year track record like Michelangelo’s. Even its next door sister restaurant Original Sin has been around for 14 years. To  be in business for that long, they had to be doing something right, right?

While some eateries have centralized kitchens to save cost, Michelangelo’s takes it to a whole different level with their wine cellar. Many people have commented about their extensive wine list and to hoard such a range, the restaurant group actually owns a semi-detached house just across the restaurant. So, don’t be surprised if you suddenly see the sommelier walking across the road and coming back with a bottle of wine. He didn’t just run to NTUC to get it.

The Carpaccio di Manzo ($22++), “Beef tenderloin, arugula, Parmesan, truffle oil”, is a safe choice, unless you aren’t a fan of raw beef.

The Caprese alla Michel ($22++), “Oven-baked portobello mushroom, mozzarella, tomatoes, salami chips”, was a tad boring. While I love the idea of salami chips (think of it as thinly sliced deep fried luncheon meat), the dish in its entirety seems like something I could whip up at home rather easily and really doesn’t justify the price tag in my view.

We were all taken by the Risotto al Fungi ($24++), “Confit of pork belly, forest mushroom, white wine, Parmesan”. The texture of the risotto was perfect to me, especially since I prefer it on the wet side with the rice grains not overly chewy. I detected the use of some truffle oil as well, which certainly enhanced the savoury cheesiness of the risotto. However, while the dish was really tasty on the first bite, the law of diminishing returns quickly set in, as subsequent mouthfuls tasted increasingly salty and the cheesiness exceedingly cloying for a single person to bear. Now that I think of it, my guess to why the risotto felt increasing salty is because the briny pork belly had a higher probability to sink to the base of the dish. My advice is to share this amongst 3 people for an optimal experience.

My favourite was the Penne Sambuca e Gamberi ($24++), “Prawns, semi-dried tomatoes, rose cream sauce, 50ml Italian Sambuca”. The tanginess of the tomatoes was what caught my attention first. Not as overwhelmingly tangy as the usual tomato-based pasta due to the addition of rose cream. Instead, what I felt was a light fiery aftertaste. Initially I thought I had bitten into some chilis but soon realized it was the Sambuca, a sweet flamable liquer that forms the base of a Flaming Lamborghini. Thumbs up for the progression of flavours.

The Tuscan Rosticciana ($34++), “Full rack of Tuscan style grilled pork rib”, is suitable for those who love their ribs with a little bit of bite, instead of fall off the bone tender. Personally, I’m a fan of the latter but still had an enjoyable time gnawing around the bones. The portion is rather huge so again, sharing is recommended!

As one of my favourite desserts, I never fail to try out a Sticky Date Pudding ($12++) if it’s on the menu. The one here is competently done and just a little less dense than a fruit cake. The Vanilla Ice Cream is of a good quality too and pairs well with the warm pudding that is drenched in sweet butterscotch sauce.

While I had some trouble finishing the Tiramisu ($12++) at Michelangelo’s sister restaurant Original Sin, the one here is clearly lighter in both the espresso flavours and consistency of the sponge cake. I also like how the sponge isn’t soggy and goes down the palate easily.

While some dishes bordered on mediocrity like the Portobello Mushroom and Ribs, no dishes I tried left negative impressions and I thought dishes like the Penne Sambuca really shone.

Special Thanks to Michelangelo’s for hosting this lunch tasting!

Michelangelo’s

Blk 44 Jalan Merah Saga, #01-60 Chip Bee Gardens Holland Village

Tel: +65 6475 9069





Original Sin – Going Vegetarian for Once

12 03 2013

While I’d like to think myself as a rather adventurous foodie, I always chose to steer away from one particular type of cuisine; vegetarian. I guess the perception that vegetables taste bad still holds true for most people. For me at least, my daily intake of vegetables is purely for the sole purpose of playing the role of roughage. My recent visit to Original Sin however did make rethink the validity of such a loosely accepted notion.

Having been around for the past 14 years, Original Sin has established itself as one of the most well-known vegetarian eateries around. It offers Mediterranean cuisine that surprisingly rivals even non-vegetarian Mediterranean restaurants I have been to in both tastiness and quality.

We started off with the Mezze Platter ($22++), which is a typical Middle Eastern selection of dips, in this case consisting of Hummus (a dip made from chickpea), pumpkin & carrot dip, Baba Ganoush (an eggplant dip), Yogurt tzatziki, Falafal balls (A deep fried patty made from chickpea), served with pita bread. On the whole, it was pretty good, especially the Baba Ganoush that had a heavier than usual garlicky taste that I liked and the pita bread which was served freshly baked and crisp.

The Magic Mushroom ($18++) was a baked Portobello mushroom with ricotta cheese, spinach, pesto, topped with a tomato basil sauce and mozzarella. It came across as more Italian than Mediterranean but still made for a simple delightful starter.

The pan fried Haloumi ($18++) served with salad greens, roasted capsicum, lentils, cucumber and mint salad was my favourite dish of the meal. Haloumi is a type of Cheese and tasted similar to savoury fried fish roe, both in terms of taste and texture and went well with the starchy lentils.

For Mains, we had the Vegetable Tandoori ($26++), which was a dish of char-grilled button mushroom, brinjal, capsicum, onion and tofu marinated in tandoori spices served with yoghurt, mango chutney and rice. Pretty decent with a moderate spice level.

The Bosco Misto ($26++) was very tasty as well. It was basically spinach, feta and tofu patties, coated with crushed almonds and sesame seeds, served with asparagus in a button mushroom plum sauce. The patties reminded me of flavourful crispy croquettes and I loved it.

My least favourite was the Capsicum Quinoa ($26++), or roasted capsicum stuffed with spiced quinoa, carrot, chickpea and mint with tzatiki, pickled grape, onion, cherry tomato and olive salad. Compared to the other mains, the flavours from this dish was a lot more subdued, with the yoghurt more or less drowning out most of the other flavours. Having had the tzatiki from the mezza platter earlier on, this felt rather boring.

The Hazelnut Chocolate Cake ($12++) came highly recommended from our host. It was a good recommendation indeed and despite using dark chocolate, the cake boasted a familiar taste that I likened to Kinder Bueno, probably because of the crispy hazelnut base that felt similar to the crunch you get when you bite into a Kinder Bueno.

The Tiramisu ($12++) didn’t fare quite as well. It wasn’t unpalatable but personally, I found the bitterness accruing from the coffee to be a little too intense.

The meal felt totally atypical for a vegetarian meal. I was surprisingly stuffed and honestly if I had a blindfold on, it would have been difficult to tell that no meat was used in the making of the meal with the highly interactive textures and flavours of the various ingredients used. I guess for once, I wouldn’t mind going vegetarian.

Special thanks to Original Sin for the invitation and hosting the meal.

Original Sin

43 Jalan Merah Saga, #01-62

Tel: +65 6475 5605





2am Dessert Bar – Contemporary Desserts with Wine Pairings

22 10 2012

It’s no secret Singapore lacks a wine culture. For most, the urge to splurge on a bottle of wine costing as much as the meal itself just doesn’t seem all that appealing. It doesn’t help that when a wine menu arrives, one meets lines and lines of words that seem all too foreign. Not wanting to buy something that we might not enjoy, we typically settle for a lesser soft drink or a more approachable beer.

Harbouring such feelings for the longest time, I decided to take a little more initiative over the past 2 months by attending wine tastings. Rather than just buying bottles off the rack, I think wine tastings are the best way to get a crash course on wine appreciation. That’s because by trying different wines one after another, you will be better able to appreciate the subtle and not so subtle differences between different labels.

The latest wine tasting I attended was at 2am Dessert Bar, an event organized by the SMU Wine Appreciation Club. I paid a nominal fee of $30 for 3 desserts with wine pairings and if you are vaguely aware of 2am’s price catalogue, you would have realized that I probably saved about $90, much thanks to SMU subsidizing my meals! Now you now why SMU charges school fees that are 20% higher than NUS’s and NTU’s…

While there’s classical fare like Tiramisu, Cheesecake and Chocolate Cake available, I’d imagine that 2am prides itself more on creating contemporary desserts that play on all your senses. To enhance the whole dessert experience, every dessert on the menu also comes with a recommended wine pairing. Friend R tried their degustation menu a while back and told me for one of the courses, she was given a test tube smelling of Popcorn to whiff at while having her Popcorn dessert. Interesting much?

The first dessert I had was the Popcorn ($17++) but it wasn’t the same one as what R got previously if that’s why you are wondering. It’s a creative concept, where 2 different types of popcorn mousses (sweet and salty) sprinkled with dehydrated popcorn are at the opposite ends of the dish, with Passionfruit sorbet in the centre. The silky popcorn mousses totally worked for me, with both varieties tasting exactly how actual popcorn tastes like. Despite being polar opposites, I still found trouble deciding on my favorite. My only gripe was that the sorbet was extremely sour, much too sharp for the delicate tasting popcorn mousse in my humble opinion.

Pairing this dessert was Prophet’s Rock Pinot Gris Central Otago 2oo8 ($18++), a white wine from New Zealand. Despite taking down tasting notes, I shan’t go into describing the wines because I believe the articulation of wine flavours varies quite greatly from person to person and I’d hate to sound like a pretentious snob saying the wine tastes of vanilla, pine nuts and lychee.

For the 2nd dessert, I had the Kayambe H2O ($18++), which is essentially Chocolate Rocks with Caramel, a Burnt Caramel ball, Chocolate Soil and Yuzu Sorbet, made using 72% Michel Cluizel Chocolate (a French chocolate with 72% cocoa content), and Evian water. This dessert didn’t quite agree with me as the chocolate comes across as a little too heavy. The best thing in this dish was probably the yuzu sorbet.

This dessert was paired with Finca Constancia Petit Verdot & Syrah 2010 ($21++), a red wine from Spain that smells of matured fruit (imagine stewed fruit) rather than fresh ones. Anyway a random wine tip I learnt at this juncture was that as red wines get older, it gets a lighter shade. When white wines get older, it gets a darker shade.

Lastly, I had the Cheese Avalanche ($18++), a deconstructed Cheesecake with Biscotti, Candied Figs, Spanish Corn and sous vide Cantaloupe (a classy synonym for Rock Melon). My favourite of the 3 desserts, I was amazed at how balanced this dish was in flavour. The cheesecake was smooth but by itself, it would have been merely pleasant and uninteresting. I liked how the rock melon cubes added the extra sweetness while the spanish corn (tastes like those corn snacks you get from Philippines) added a savoury tone and distinct crunch.

This dessert was paired with Pauleczki Tokaji 3 Hungary 2000 ($16++), a sweet dessert wine that goes down pretty smoothly, downplaying the actual alcohol content.

Desserts take centre stage at 2am Dessert Bar so apart from the few snacks like Fries and Drumlets, there isn’t much “proper food” here. Then again, you might be surprised at how 3 desserts can fill you up quite nicely for dinner.

2am Dessert Bar

21A Lorong Liput, Holland Village

Tel: +65 6291 9727





Bistro Petit Salut – Le Affordable Authentic French

22 12 2010

Bistro Petit Salut holds a dear place in my heart because as far as I can remember, it was the very eatery that got me madly in love with French Cuisine. At that time, I was a newly initiated foodie convert and French Cuisine was unappealing to me with its high barriers to entry, being seemingly perched up on a pedestal with it’s sophisticated sounding dishes and unaffordable cost.

A visit to Bistro Petit Salut changed this presumption. It made me realize that authentic French nosh can be sought at a friendly price and that French Cuisine is not synonymous with Fine Dining.

Wanting to share this experience with my SMU bidding group, which we have aptly named ourselves The Humbled Group after getting pwned and humbled in class participation during our first class by some North Indian students, I suggested celebrating S’s birthday lunch here.

3-Course Set Lunches here goes for $25++ which is also inclusive of coffee, making this one of the most affordable set lunches around in my book.

For Appetizers, we had the Salmon Tatare in Lemon Dressing, Basil and Arugula Salad (more commonly known as Rocket Salad). To put it more simply, this was just Diced Raw Salmon with Rocket Leaves, with the Lemon Dressing used to lend a brighter and cleaner flavour to the fish. Sashimi lovers would love this.

The Homemade Pork Rillettes, Mesclun Salad with Walnut Dressing and Toast wasn’t as well received. Think of it as canned tuna soaked in brine in where the tuna was substituted with pork instead. To be used as a spread for the toast, the cured pork was not very agreeable with our Asian palates.

The Appetizer I would definitely recommend ordering is the Half Dozen Baked Burgundy Snails with Tomato and Garlic Butter. After all, where better to eat Escargot then at an established French bistro? There aren’t many places in Singapore that serve escargots so having it here would set a good benchmark at a very reasonable price.

The last of the Appetizers we tried was the Prawn Salad with Vine Ripened Tomatoes with Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette. I’m not sure how restaurants do it but there’s definitely a secret in how they manage to make their prawns taste so fresh and crunchy. I don’t cook so this question has always eluded me but I have heard soaking prawns in sugar solution before cooking makes it more springy.

For Mains, we tried the Catch of the Day with Mixed Garden Vegetable and Nicoise Vinaigrette. If I’m not wrong, the fish used was Treadfin and it was cooked in a healthy manner with minimal use of spices, allowing the natural flavours of the fish to be accentuated.

Good Risottos are hard to make, and even harder to find in Singapore restaurants. It’s always a challenge to balance the right amount of cheesiness and viscosity of the cheese and Arborio rice but Bistro Petit Salut seems to have gotten it just right with its Mixed Mushroom Risotto with light Cream Emulsion & Parmesan Cheese.

MZ was quite unlucky, having chosen the Pork Rillette which we considered a miss. Unfortunately, her unlucky streak continued in her choice of main, the Braised Lamb Shoulder “Navarin” Style with Carrots and Potatoes. The meat was utterly dry and tough and subsequently left unfinished.

I was really pleased in my choice of Chicken Leg Confit with Sauteed Potatoes, Bacon & Mixed Green Salad. Lightly crisp skin and tender flesh, with fried cubes of bacon soaking up all the chicken fat, utterly utterly sinfully delicious.

For desserts, J had the Classical Creme Brulee. I felt that it had the perfect consistency and sweetness but with the large portion that was given, a risk factor would be “gelatness” so this would be best shared.

Having had a great experience with the Choux Bun at Au Petit Salut, I decided to get it here as well, the Choux Bun with Vanilla Ice Cream, Warm Chocolate Sauce & Slice Almonds. I definitely didn’t regret it. The closest resemblance I can link to the Choux Bun is the push cart ice cream served with bread. Of course, there is a much higher satisfaction level crunching on the Choux Bun here than a $2 ice cream sandwich.

Normally cheesecakes in set lunches are shams, but I really savoured the “Gateau au Fromage Blanc” aka Homemade Cheesecake with Madagascar Vanilla Beans here which I found surprisingly not too cloying after the rich and oleaginous mains.

Wanting something lighter, you might want to consider the airy Homemade Strawberry Shortcake. Both the Strawberry Shortcake and Cheesecake came with a scoop of Sherbet (forgot what flavour though) which I thought was very generous given the already reasonable price of the set lunch.

Having a penchant for Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, S decided to supplement an extra $5 for it. I thought it was fairly decently executed, nothing you can’t get in other establishments. I really like how Bistro Petit Salut is so flexible in terms of set menu item changes, maybe I should try switching to a Foie Gras appetizer next time.

Compared to sister restaurant Au Petit Salut, I would prefer the latter for its location amidst a lush landscape and classier ambience but if you are just looking for no-frills authentic French food, Bistro Petit Salut would be slightly friendlier on the wallet.

Bon Appetit!

BISTRO PETIT SALUT

44 JALAN MERAH SAGA

Tel: +65 6474 9788








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