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!



TEL: +65 6347 1928

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