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Showing posts with label Singapore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Singapore. Show all posts

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, CanelĂ©  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.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Singapore: Indian Galore @ Tekka Centre, Little India

Singapore is a superb one stop eating destination if you are looking for hassle free dining. From the hawker delights to the pinnacle of fine dining, this busy republic seem to have it all!  In this post, I took a morning trip with my resident aunt for some delicious hawker fare in town.  

First stop was Hong Lim Food Complex which boast two levels of affordable hawker fare. I started with the Outram Park Char Kuey Teow stall as everything else was still close at 9am!
Fresh out of the wok, the noodles cost just a little over $3 for the lot.  The noodles come out coated with egg and a dark caramelised coating. Juicy cockles are part of the fare but Singapore’s Best Char Kuey Teow felt a little lacking in that final bit of kick that stems from a good frying in the wok.  Instead, the Fried Kuey Teow was a little wet and had a slightly creamy coating from the eggs.  It was decent by all means but I found my adventures to Penang 2 years back to be more hearty and it got more tongue wagging too!  See my three Fried Kuey Teow reviews from Penang below:

Once we were done, I started looking around for the famous Heng Kee Curry Noodles but was told that they do not open until closer to lunch.  Oh well!  My aunt then brought me to Tekka Centre on 655 Buffalo road in Little India just a few MRT stations away for more awesome eating.  As I enter the food court, I started drooling! There were so many stalls around and I honestly wanted to order everything!

I started with one of my biggest cravings the  Roti Canai or if you prefer Prata.  Doused with fish curry and a spoonful of sinfully delicious Sambal at Prata Saga Sambal Bermuda.  This cost no more than 80 cents and holy crap it was lovely.  Thin, and middle crispy with little pockets of air the take in all that lovely curry.  

To help fend off Singapore’s hot weather was Chendol!  This drink is served with a splash of coconut milk and a generous scoop of palm sugar.  Super delicious as I would expect it to be as the palm sugar used was of high quality as it had that slightly savoury fragrant.  Even the green stuff known as Chendol was super fresh unlike the ones in Perth that comes out of the can.  

To finish was a serve of Indian Rojak at Temasek Indian Rojak.  On the plate we had the customary cuttlefish, hardboiled eggs, fried spiced batter, fish cakes and all that other yummy goodies!!  To top if off were some freshly chopped vegetables with a bowl of peanuty-mildly sweet Rojak Sauce.  It was a little oil but like all Indian Rojak, it is simply something that you would expect!
Believe it or not, at this point I was thinking of whether I should go for the Mutton Briyani that was simply staring at me from no more than 20 metres away.  Yet I did not go for it as I knew I had to reserve my stomach for my lunch later on.  But I definitely wold when I come back to Singapore next time as this place is promising from the Mamak and Indian food I have tasted!  

If you are a Malaysian like myself, you are almost certain to downplay the success of the local Singaporean hawker scene which is very similar to Malaysia.  But this is definitely not true!  While the Char Kuey Teow is mediocre by Malaysian standards the Roti Canai, Chendol and Indian Rojak that I had puts most Mamaks in Malaysia shame!  Definitely a return for me.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Singapore: db Bistro Moderne, Marina Bay Sands

db Bistro Moderne at Marina Bay Sands was my first meal in Singapore.  Lauded for its big mouth burgers and some French classic dishes, I was pretty gutted to have not tried the one in Manhattan, opposite the hotel I lived in after missing out on the 3 Michelin Star restaurant Daniel. So when my host suggested to have dinner in MBS’s db Bistro, I  was super keen.

db Bistro Moderne at MBS sports a very casual dining layout accented by red/white leather seats, vintage tiles and chic fittings.  The menu is extensive and they have introduced a new seafood platter, something which the wait staff were quite keen on selling.  Coming from Australia I was totally not biting the bait as I knew good seafood is cheap back home.

The complimentary bread basket:
Looking back when I had it was super delicious because it was 8.30pm and we had not eaten anything since lunch.  But thinking it through, the course was at best a decent bread basket with French butter. 

Our shared appetiser  of Tuna Tartare - main size ($30)
I love my tartare be it steak or fish and the one at db Bistro was pretty good.  However, I tend to prefer my tartare with minimal seasoning yet the Harissa marinated tartare proved to be a surprisingly good addition.  Its pairing with the cucumber and cool mint yoghurt paired to give the tartare a nice finish.  No fishy taste if you are concerned ;)

Duck confit, with a bean cassoulet and watercress salad ($42)
The serve was generous and the perfectly caramelised skin was superb to look at.  Its flavours were well-balanced and not overly salted. While the duck confit was a standout by itself, the bitter greens and mediocre bean cassoulet accompanying the dish did not settle well with JH’s palate.  

The Original db Burger Burger ($42)
This is easily the most talked about burger in Singapore.  Its patty made of fine mince consisting of sirloin filled with braised short ribs and Foie Gras is one of the juiciest in the business.  But its $42 price tag excluding tax also gives it bragging rights as it was the most expensive burger I have ever eaten only to be beaten by Robuchon’s Foie Gras burger at Joel Robuchon's Kagoshima and Foie Gras burger at Le’ Atelier.  But when it comes to flavour, its was yummy!  You get the creamy Foie Gras, juicy mince and finished with a melting note from the fatty ribs.

All in all, db Bistro Moderne was a really decent place for dinner that evening.  But was it as good as most people suggest it to be?  Perhaps not.  Even my dining companion JH who is usually proud of this db Bistro Moderne joint felt poorly about the Duck Confit that night which lacked attention to detail with the poorly finished bean cassoulet and bitter wilted greens.   The price tag in addition was not the cheapest too.  Without desserts, the price tag came close to a hefty $140.