Brown Sugar opened very recently – 10th November 2006 – and when we went there on Saturday night with A’s friends, it was already packed. Word of mouth must be quite a powerful thing, since it’s only been around for two weeks, and its location is far from prominent. It’s in the Stardus Clubhouse, which is an NTUC, Downtown East-type recreational club. It’s very incongruous having a chic bistro in a place like this, but actually I can’t complain about the location. There’s free parking within the Clubhouse itself, so no problems trying to find a parallel lot along River Valley or Mohammed Sultan.
The executive chef and owner is a guy called Yuan Oeij, who prior to opening Brown Sugar, had been running a successful private catering business called “Chef For Hire”. He has temporarily stopped Chef For Hire while he establishes Brown Sugar, but apparently it will be up and running again in 2007.
The café/bistro section can seat about 25, and next to it is a private dining room for another 20. It was full on Saturday and as a result, the food took quite a long time – 3 courses took us almost 2 hours. Still, they’re a very new establishment and I attribute this to early teething problems. There’s definitely a lot of potential here – food was good and service was polite and attentive. Only the long wait and artic aircon temperatures marred an otherwise very pleasant experience.
Portions aren’t big, so A and I had 3 full courses each. For starters, A had the Cappuccino of Porcini Mushroom, and I had the Lobster Bisque with Prawn Ravioli.
The lobster bisque could have been served a bit hotter. It was lukewarm when it arrived, maybe because the kitchen can’t cope with the demand and it may have been sitting in the kitchen waiting for a waiter to bring it out. It tasted great though – the lobster flavour was really intense, and the prawn ravioli added a nice touch with some texture.
My main course was one of the daily specials – a rack of lamb with rosemary potatoes in a port and raisin sauce.
I asked for the doneness to be medium, but it was slightly more cooked than I would’ve preferred. It wasn’t pink any more, and felt more like a medium well. Still, it was very tender and overall the dish was very tasty.
A had the boneless chicken and baby spinach roulade with puttanesca spaghetti and salad.
The presentation was interesting and not what I expected at all.
I think A’s main was better than mine. The chicken was thigh meat and very very tender, not overly seasoned, and the spaghetti was yummy as well. I was afraid that the sauce would be overpowered with olives, but luckily only a few olives featured and the tangy tomato sauce was really good.
For dessert, I had the tarte tatin (surprise surprise, I seem to be addicted to these lately) with pears, and honey and fig ice cream. This was ok but not spectacular; the pastry was a little too hard and flaky, and didn’t have that light buttery taste that is the hallmark of a good puff pastry. Still, the pear, pastry and ice cream combination was really good and we still polished off every morsel.
A had the vanilla panna cotta with blueberry sauce, which was a very odd choice since I expected him to order the chocolate fondant cake. The spoonful of panna cotta that I tried was alright, but A said it grew on him the more he had.
All in all, it was definitely better than expected. We’ll give the place a month or two to sort themselves out, before heading back again for good food in a nice laidback atmosphere.
Decent food. I was a bit under-whelmed by the starters and desserts, but pleasantly surprised by the mains. The salmon and ribeye sandwich looked good so I’ll go for one of those the next time. In fact, I think maybe I’ll talk C into skipping starters and desserts so we can share three mains. Each is within the S$15-30 range so it won’t break the bank too.
Service is pretty decent and the location means easy parking. Will definitely be back and it’s worth considering as an alternative to our usual haunts.
Note to self: Latte very average. Try the cappuccino next time.
277 River Valley Road
(enter via Institution Hill)
Lunch 12 pm to 2.30 pm
Dinner 6.30 pm to 11 pm
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