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Showing posts with label French Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label French Food. Show all posts

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Paris: Duck Confit @ Bosc Alain, Champ de Mars

It was the final day in Paris and I was keen to end it with an authentic French lunch.  But with no internet to help, I had to walk on foot and decide what was best.  Eventually I ended up at Bosc Alain nearby the Eiffel tower area.  The 3 course set menu was simple but every bit French.  

Escargots in a lovely parsley butter
The escargots taste a little earthy, with a mild chew but generous amount of butter and parsley made this dish really tasty while developing a very nice fragrance. 

Duck Confit
While the accompaniments were authentic, I could not help but wonder whether the duck could have been cooked better.  The skin was decently brown but a tad longer to let the skin become crisp and fat cook away would definitely be the way to go.  But on a positive note, the duck was not overly salty and the frites that came with it were super crunchy and nice.

Cheese plate to finish.
The plate felt bare but I guess the highlight was the cheese anyway. While I was expecting a little sweet side like dates/pear/jam, there was none.  Even then, the cheese tasted good!  Could have been better for sure.

Was it amazing?  Well, perhaps no.  But my expectations were not the highest as it was a super touristy area where tourists would come by the masses anyway.  But alas, it was still a decent meal with some notable highlights like the escargots and the duck in some aspects.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Paris: Pastry Galore @ Maison Eric Kayser & Boulangerie Gosselin, Paris

Paris is known as the city of love but it is also known for its amazing food.  Many things come to mind when you associate the French with food.  You get decadent desserts, Michelin starred restaurants serving the finest meals to quaint little bistros serving classical French food.  For me, there was one thing I looked forward to more than the rest when I was there.  That is to try their re-known pastries.  In particular, the much-talked about classic, the Croissant.  In October, I made a short trip to Paris over the weekend and tried some popular bakeries in town.

My first morning before walking through Luxembourg Garden was a stop at Maison Eric Kayser on d’Assas road.  This bakery was one of the many others that formed the famous Eric Kayser franchise.  To get my morning fuel, I tried three different pastries. Sorry for the really random looking pics! I was too hungry to re-arrange them and present them nicely together :P!

The classic Croissant.

The White Chocolate Brioche

The Raisin & Vanilla Custard Pastry

The pastries were rich, tasty and more-ish.  But while the Croissant and Brioche should have been the favourites, they were served a little too cold for my liking.  This means it was not as fluffy or airy as they could have been.  For that reason alone, my favourite was the Raisin & Vanilla Custard Pastry.   

The morning before I went home came seemingly close to being a failure.  With most places closed, it was hard to find anything proper.  Then there was the marathon which had several main roads close in the Louvre area.  Just when my friends were about to settle for McDonald’s  I managed to lead the team to Boulangerie Gosselin.

Chocolate Eclair


Pistachio Twist? Croissant?

Another moment of decadence in Paris.  While I have tasted better Eclairs in life, this was a good one although I felt the need for better balance and that it could be fresher over all.  The Croissant here was noticeably airier compared to the one from Maison Eric Kayser.  However, it was also less buttery.  Alas, my favourite one was the Pistachio Pastry.  Crusty, slightly sweet and fragrant, it was a hard one to beat.  

The pastries in Paris were consistently good or perhaps I have been to some consistently good bakeries.  Controversially enough, I cannot help but feel let down by the croissants.  Fortunately, the discovery of some seriously yummy alternatives kept my hopes up.  At Maison Eric Kayser, the Raisin and Custard swirl was all the rave.  Crispy, creamy and a toned sweetness, it was impeccable.  On the other hand, the fragrant of the pistachios from Boulangerie Gosselin still lingers on my palate today.  Looking in hindsight though its like going to Italy to buy a Ferrari only to come back with a Citroen.  Does not sound very right now does it? =|


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

London: Home-Style French Cooking @ La Poule au Pot, Belgravia

My colleague Jacques has a European heritage that traces back to the South of France.  Despite the typical stereotypes of the French being impatient, poor in service and fussy with food, he was nothing like that.  In fact, he was very un-French by being every bit hospitable while I was staying with him, and ever so patient when we were colleagues at work.  Which make me wonder about his taste for food and I was about to find out. One the last night, he recommended a little French place called La Poule au Pot for dinner.

This little restaurant could not be any less pretentious with its simple outfit and French waitstaff.  This gave me a good vibe about dinner that is going to be unsophisticated but honestly good.  At La Poule au Pot you have a choice between seating inside and outside, but as the sun was still up, I could not resist seating outside by the square and see the evening go by.

Complementary crudites with a mustard dipping sauce.

This is one of those moment where I would say “I do not normally enjoy my vegetable raw, but when I do they are bloody good”.  And I am not being an el-cheapo here just because it was free.  But the depth of interest grows when you put out an interesting platter.  Some peppers, carrots, fennel and some red turnips. Vibrant colours.


Basic but vital.  Not with the butter but with the stews that were about to come :)

Beef Bourguignon

Coq Au Vin

Put both dishes together and you might find the two dishes fairly similar.  It contained good amounts of red wine, tender protein, sweet root vegetables and was absolutely hearty.  But each dish had its own distinctive taste with the Beef Bourguignon having a heavier, much more meaty finish whilst the red wine flavour was a lot more pronounce and present in the Coq Au Vin.  All of the vegetables were soaked in delicious juices and the dish really benefited from the slow cooking which resulted in melt in your mouth chunks of beef.  The Coq Au Vin on the other hand is cooked for a much shorter time which means the alcohol does not all dissipate.  This produces a tender chicken with a wine-stained skin.  Oh boy they were delicious.

Some greenx for the table

Apple Tartin to finish.

Thick layer of caramelised apples was paired with a lovely short crust.  But the highlight for me was how the apple dessert was not sugar laden.  Instead you get the ripe flavours of the apples that was sweet with a mild tartness.  Sensational. 

My over all satisfaction with the meal was high.  The lack of presence by the Foie Gras or Truffles at La Poule au Potwas a great thing as I was treated to what good home-cooked French food should be.  My meal was authentic, simple and humble.  The bill too was decent as it totalled just under £60!  When it comes to service though, it was only modest at best due to the lack of friendliness from the waitstaff!

La Poule Au Pot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bites NLD: Chinese-French @ HanTing Cuisine, Prinsestraat

The fastest way to the heart of a country is by eating food said many.  I have recently moved to the Hague as part of my training.  As a keen foodie, I walked the predictable path of attempting to understand a culture by eating my way through town.  Last week I took the time to visit HanTing, a 1 Michelin star Chinese - French restaurant.  Located in the city, it was in a convenient spot to begin.  

The concept was really unusual because while Japanese-French establishments are as cliche as humans’ breathing in Australia,  the Chinese - French connection was new to me! But lets leave the food to do the talking.

Tray of “snacks”.  

A superb mix of colours, textures and flavours.  The complex offering started with a squid ink bun filled with some mild horseradish which gave the sweet-ish almost brioche like bun a subtly pungent bite.  Next was the beetroot meringue.  It packed a crunch with an unmistakable earthiness from the beetroot.  This was followed by was a savoury macaroon, a crisp and crudités with a saffron aioli dip.

Amuse Bouche

Tomato Jelly, Mousse, celery and smoked eel.  It was acidic, creamy and salty.  All of which was serenaded by a whiff of smokiness.  Small and potent, but more importantly it was interesting.

Steamed bread with fried shallots.

The dish of HERRING was the First course presented to me.  This fish is a typical Dutch stereotype so when it was served it felt like a surprise but not really.  Served raw, I was really quite concerned by the thick layer of “blood" running underneath the skin.  But Chef Han’s idea of serving the fish with a host of fruity and refreshing elements was absolutely genius.  Among the accompaniments identified are compressed watermelon, Yuzu dressing, Guacamole and tomato jelly.  This oily fish was buttery and left only the slightest hint of the sea in my mouth.  But scoop a little of each element to eat with the fish and it did not at all feel like a fish!  It was light, subtle, and fruity.


For diners that find the HERRING fishy, HanTing serves a complimentary course which felt like a re-interpretation of the Japanese “ONIGIRI”.  Its sweet-vinegary flavours readies the palate for the next course.

The Second course featured TUNA in several ways.  Seared-all round and a sushi.  Served with red pepper puree, soya, cucumber and a wasabi jelly, this was an intricate dish. Not to mention melt-in-your mouth squid and aubergine in the middle.  But was all this effort in vain? Not all but some.  The sushi probably was the least impressive dish.  The sticky shards of rice and pressed tuna tasted stale.  With the seared tuna, I found the pairing with the lukewarm wasabi jelly log too mundane.  I did not get that kick which I got from the HERRING dish.  With the warm temperature in the dining hall, having served the dish with a wasabi sorbet would have totally win it.  Oh, do not forget to omit the sushi too!


My Third course was a dish of SEA BASS and razor clam.  Another dish from the sea, but this time cooked.  A good way to imagine this dish is to think of a perfectly cooked fish.  And then think of the last time you had a perfectly cooked fish and cry.  Ok just joking lol.  Think of the fish and at the same time imagine a soy based sauce that feels buttery, filled with shrooms and a touch of sweet rice wine.  Everything was bang on perfect.  The HERRING course I had at HanTing is probably not to everyone taste, but this was definitely a crowd pleaser.


The Fourth and last savoury course was a meal of VEAL.  Served pink in the middle the VEAL was tender, juicy and flavoursome.  The seared loin was well-seasoned and one flavour that was more prominent than others was five spice.  A spice frequently used by Chinese to season meat.  On the side you had turnips, yam and also a very special solidified lard with shallots.  By itself, the veal was delicious.  But melt the flavoured lard onto the meat and you get the hint of ginger and spring onions which perfumed the veal so very nicely it was awesome.


Last but not least was a sweet ending.  Sorbet frozen using liquid Nitrogen, white chocolate ganache shaped and twisted, and to cut through the sweetness of the lot, some sliced candied Mandarins. 


The meal at HanTing was nothing short of being impressive.  The kitchen’s thought on the plate was clearly “more is more” and not "less is more".  While this worked brilliantly for most courses, the TUNA took a few steps back with that thought.   I wanted a little more surprise that suited the warm summer season.  But with 4 out of the 5 courses winning my approval, it is a clear sign that HanTing’s 1 Michelin star is well-deserved.  If you had to ask me what my favourite courses were, I would no doubt vouch for the Herring which freaked me out initially.  Its buttery sweet flesh was second to none.   The Sea Bass is the second best followed suit by the Veal and Dessert of White Chocolate & Berries.  


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bites: Re-evaluating my favourite degustation @ Petite Mort, Shenton Park.

When I last visited Petite Mort, I loved it. The food was good and course after course I was consistently vowed by their presentation and composition.  Last week, I returned with my tongue a little keener, fussier, and meaner after my escapades in Singapore and Cambodia.  Was I still impressed by Petite Mort’s offering?

To understand where Petite Mort has evolved over the last couple of months, I decided to re-visit their degustation menu.

To start, was Petite Mort’s ever so buttery Brioche and another Sun dried tomato pastry.

Onion Thyme Veloute, Ham Hock w/ Manjimup Truffles

I pondered on whether the truffles were worth adding to this course.  But when the waitress said that these were the best in W.A., I decided to go with it.  It came out so fragrant that I was impressed by the smell itself.  But when the smooth Veloute was poured in, it felt as though the impact of the truffles were no longer as apparent.  Was it the right combination?


Cured Salmon, Cuttlefish & Ponzu, Wasabi Sorbet, Yuzu Jelly.

This was a reminiscence of my last visit.  But this time around, the cured salmon provided a more buttery finish to the course.

Pork Belly, Pig Head, Slaw, Apple

A pork belly slow-cooked for 37 hours before being seared, a cheek meat shaped as a cube and minute fried to crisp and condiments as you know it.   Topped with a crisp crackling, this dish is everything you thought you knew, but you did not know.   There are hidden inspirations from a British classic as well as a German one in this course.  The slaw was a sauerkraut to pair with the very tender, fatty and crisp cheek.  A good re-interpretation of the Pork Knuckle and Sauerkraut.  Meanwhile, the apple jelly paired perfectly with the meaty pork belly to reveal a meal of Pork Chops and Apples.

Chicken, Rocket, Porcini, Cassoulet

Sous vide chicken roulade with a sensational plating.

My main consisted of a beef flank, crisp shallots and the tastiest potato gratin.  Sensational.  So good that I forgot the picture! Lol.

Death By Chocolate 

My choice of dessert was similar to the one I had before.  The satisfaction was no less than when I first had it.  Petite Mort’s Death by Chocolate is every bit as delicious as it needed to be.  With all the textures, it was something that triumph Jaan’s Chocolate dessert with no questions asked.  It was that good.

Soufflè, Yuzu, Custard, Yoghurt

XL’s choice of dessert.  A show of amazing alchemy and precision cooking.  I still re-call the moment the waitress poured that vial of yuzu custard and the whole Soufflé rose.  Sensational.

The degustation ended on a sweet note with the Petite Fours

The meal at Petite Mort was exactly as I remembered it to be with each course satisfying all my senses.  To be impressed twice shows that  Petite Mort made several strong refinements which were especially impactful.  The buttery salmon was one of them.  But it was the intricate thought of the Pork which impressed me the most.  After my dinner at Petite Mort, I was happy yet I could not help but wonder whether Petite Mort has played it a little too safe.  Was Petite Mort on the same level to complete with International Chefs from Jaan, Le Atelier de Joel Robuchon or Sepia?

First Visit to Petite Mort

Click to add a blog post for Petite Mort on Zomato

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Singapore: Classical French Dining @ Les Amis in the Shaw House, Singapore.

Les Amis was my final lunch before I left Singapore. This traditional French diner serves the classics with a modern presentation and a pinch of Asia.  Holding a spot in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant and previously featured in The Worlds 100 Best Restaurants, this was another highly acclaimed restaurant that got me excited and coming from Jaan at Swissotel just the day before, I was prepared to be absolutely blown.

The first dish Les Amis had for the table was the Foie Gras terrine with mango chutney.

The assemble was modernly presented on a long tile but the terrine tasted mediocre at best.  Its seasoning was decent but it not spread well across the bread.  I was actually hoping for a more pate finish that simply melts in my mouth.  Thankfully enough, the slightly tart but ripe flavours of the fragrant mango provided a consolation prize finish.

Pan seared scallops served in “nage”, and salmon roe

Plump scallops in a buttery emulsion.   Each of which was cooked perfectly with a thin crust on the outside with its sweetness and juiciness maintained on the inside.  Need I elaborate more?  Perhaps the complexity of the nage was a little understated and the fragrant of the wine was not pronounce  but otherwise it was perfect!

Ocean trout cooked unilateral, cabbage and olive emulsion

Ocean trout was hard to fault and it was probably the least mentioned dish that day.  Besides enjoying the layers peel off one after another, I really appreciated the subtle undertones of the emulsion which complemented the trout.  One fault which I did not understand was why the skin was not removed and crisped to a shard before being placed back on top!  It would have made it all the better!

For the mains, Les Amis presented us with a choice of the “Pork” aor the “Chicken”.

Pork from Carpathian Mountains with charcuterie sauce and mashed potato.  This was not mine but I wished it was! Presentation was flawless and its taste was yums!  Very simple, and fuss free but the substance was there.  Surprisingly tender for something so lean.  The side of mashed potatoes were “OK” but not as buttery as how Joel Robuchon does his.  Palatable nonetheless.

Traditional Roasted Chicken, confit potatoes, cabbage with mustard and jus.

Just yesterday after dining on the best poultry at Jaan at Swissotel,  I was simply flabbergasted to be served a bird like this at Les Amis. Technically, it was edible but in a restaurant like this, everything felt wrong.  The presentation was crap, the salad was bitter and the chicken was under-seasoned.  Generally the French are very light on their seasoning and it works but in this instance, it just killed the chicken. Twice! Note: the potatoes were edible. 

Alphonso Mango, sugar sphere.

Keep the best for the last they say.  Perhaps Les Amis has picked up that habit too.  This impressive looking dessert had all the bells and whistles to make heads turn.  A quirky-glossy sphere that just intrigues.  When it reached the table, seeing the sphere slowly crumble under the knock of the spoon was as addictive as popping the bubbles of a bubble wrap.  The mango flavours were lovely and the sorbet on the inside was just superb.  I have always preferred lighter more refreshing fruity desserts over sugar laden chocolate ones.  The Alphonso Mango was right up my alley.  But with all sugar shards, expect it to stick in between your teeth!

To finish our meal at Les Amis, we were served served hot drinks and some Palmiers.

These butterfly shaped pastries were right on the dollar to finish the meal. Sipping tea made the experience all the better.  But was the Palmier all les Amis had to offer to finish the meal? =/!!!!

To sum up the lunch, Les Amis is a restaurant that promises classical fine dining without kicking up a fuss.   Its techniques were simple and some of it worked.  I can imagine this is what retirement feels like.  It feels great but a little sedentary and all of it, very rational.  Not much fireworks in the food Les Amis presented to us today.  The execution was fair but it did not really sweep my peers and I off our feet.  My main of chicken was a clear disaster but other dishes like the fish was slightly blend but still yummy.  My dining partners were clearly left divided between the scallops and dessert of Alphonso Mango.  But for me, I felt that neither was good enough to dampen my disappointment at Les Amis.  For a restaurant that boast a position higher than Jaan on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant list, I expected a lot more.

See my review of Jaan here.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Singapore: Modern French Dining Above the Clouds @ Jaan, Swissotel

After surging 72 floors to Jaan, I was guided to my seat and was instantly awed by the views from the table.  The service was friendly and the waitress stowed our coats away.   Jaan is no stranger to the fine dining scene and is highly ranked among its peers.  In Jaan’s recent assessment, the gastronomic institution ranked 74 in the The World’s Best Restaurant List 2015 and 11th on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant List.  But like always, numbers only mean so much if substance is not there.  So where does Jaan stand already congested Modern French dining scene?

The menu for today was the Artisanal degustation which is promises nothing but the best from the Chef.  For an added sense of excitement, the menu was not listed out.

The starter was a platter of “snacks” 
Attention to detail alert!  The crisp puff, the charcoal bread and the Chef’s interpretation of hummus with crackers, everything was creatively put together. 

Chef Julien’s “My Hummus”.  Can I have a jar to take home please?

The amuse bouche 
Mushroom emulsion with tea.  A frothy delicacy with little bits of crunchy puffs for texture.  

HOKKAIDO UNI, cauliflower, ‘Oscietra’ caviar
It’s been awhile since I was served something so pure, and so clearly composed.  The smooth, sweet and briny flavours paired sensationally with the creamy cauliflower puree.  Add the buttery, and mildly salted caviar for a food coma.  This was a very rich course but it did not leave the mouth tasting foul.  Top notch! On the side were some soldiers topped with micro-herbs and what I presume was cheese.  
Not sure why the soldier was served because the dish of Uni by itself was already heavenly by itself!

BEETROOT COLLECTION ‘Burrata artigiana’, honeycomb, horseradish
The beet root course is what one calls “perfect timing”.  After back to back indulgence from the hummus, mushroom foam and Hokkaido Uni, this dish provided a salvation like none other.  The inspiration from the plate made me reminiscence the Asparagus Course from Amuse.  From the beetroot Meringue, to the sorbet to the pickled beets, it was faultless.  The pairing of honey and buffalo cheese with the beetroot was unmistakably text book material but its something that drives the taste buds to a climax.  Even my dining partner JH was impressed by the substance on the plate!

ORGANIC EGG “JARDINIER” Garden peas,black garlic
Ham, peas and eggs, is a simple yet extremely classic dish native to several European countries.  To finish, it was topped with truffles, Jamon and pork crackling.  Execution was perfect.  Think buttery crushed peas, crispy crackling, and runny yolk, all of which was serenaded by a note of truffle.  No words required here.

CRISPY SKIN AMADAI Kabocha, in-house salsa
This is Jaan’s signature dish., the crispy skin Amadai.  The dish sports an unmistakably unique feature.  Its edible scales stick out gracefully on the plate which played a more textural role than flavour.  In one sentence, the Amadai was prepared very nicely with an in-house salsa but the Amadai was the least impressive course at Jaan.  When a fish course is a restaurant’s signature, I expect the same initial wow factor Testuya Wakuda’s Confit of Petuna Ocean Trout delivered.

HAY-ROASTED PIGEON White corn, foie gras, cabbages, cumin
This is Chef Julien’s forte,  a game bird from the Bresse province in France (info from others). Served medium, the presentation was absolutely sexy! To this day, I still imagine the juicy slices of pigeon breast!  On my first bite, the whiff of smokiness clouding the whole dish was mild but recognisable.  The gaminess of the bird was mild but add a small bit of Foie Gras and it lifted the game to a whole new level.  Boy this was great! 

Palate cleanser

CHOCONUTS ‘GRAND CRU’ Tastes & textures
Chocolate, chocolate, everywhere chocolate.  This is probably what I need on my final two days of work each swing.  But having it 72 storeys above ground at Jaan in Swissotel felt like the perfect setting.  Whilst I am still a bigger fan of the Death by Chocolate served at Petite Mort, the Grand Cru delivers a kick of chocolate in each bite.  Every element on the plate delivered a sensation of differing creaminess, sweetness, and texture.  Each of which easily earns a place on my tongue.  From the bubble texture to the reach mouse and brittle logs, it was booms!

APPLE sorbet, mint
Apple sorbet, crystals, and jelly.  It is hard to appreciate the course with its simple looks but as said before, looks can be deceiving.  Apple and mint to finish was smart thinking by the chefs at Jaan.  A description I use plenty of times, the dish delivered a finish that was clean and crisp.  

MIGNARDISE or simply, Petit Four.
The small oven creations were Jaan’s final course finished with a whimsical sense of creativity.  With the pouring of dry ice, a mysterious cloud hid a platter of what would eventually be revealed as Chocolate Macarons with mushroom filling, marshmallows, Canelé  and Chocolate pops filled with mint.  Technical faults were present across the board but after being so impressed by the Artisanal dego, I thought I would grant Jaan leniency.

If people call Jaan a good dining experience, I think the good just got better.  The level of dining I experienced was not one that comes by everyday.  From a Michelin perspective an easy 2 stars which is very close to a solid 3.  Dish after dish, JH and I both commended the thought that was presented with each course. From the pigeon smoked in hay to the beetroot collection and even more so with the ham,pea and eggs, these were simple yet enjoyable pleasures!  The execution of each course was flawless and the presentation was made artistic.  My only disappointment was the course of AMADAI fish which clearly showed that just because it looked great does not mean it taste great.  But then comes the humble bird which was Chef Julien's favourite and it absolutely sealed the deal at Jaan.  Dining with such food on the 72nd floor also made it feel as though you were dining in heaven.  This brings back good memories of me dining in Sepia, Sydney and Le Atelier de Joel Robuchon.  Happy days! To Chef Julien and his crew, thank you.