Sunday, November 29, 2009

Morton’s Bar

C says:

This is quite the weekend of excess. This evening we met up with A’s friends for dinner at Morton’s Bar, to try the famed fillet mignon sandwiches (which are served free during happy hour on weekdays) and the Morton’s Burger.

On weekdays from 5 to 7 pm, their martinis (which pack a serious punch) go for $11.95, and you get free flow of their fillet mignon sandwiches to boot. However, they apparently don’t come round with the sandwich platter very often, and you can’t really grab more than one each time. Alternatively, after happy hour you can order 4 of the sandwiches for $21.

This was my first time trying them and they do live up to the hype. The bread is soft and fluffy, and the steak is tender, rare and very tasty. I could probably eat all 4 of these myself.

We also shared the Morton’s Burger, which is apparently an institution in the US, but has only recently been introduced here, and is available only at the Bar, not the main restaurant. The burger costs $30 but after 8 pm daily, it’s $25.

We ordered ours medium rare, with bacon, mushrooms and Swiss cheese. And wow, this was one hell of a burger. It was perfectly cooked, juicy and not dry at all, and the beef was really good quality and flavourful. Certainly not cheap, but it’s huge and well worth it for the quality. Best burger I’ve had in a really long time. Plus it comes with loads of really good fries – thick cut, crisp on the outside and fluffy inside.

There was a slightly unpleasant note that marred an otherwise good evening. One of A’s friends was wearing calf-length cargo shorts, and as we were entering, the waitress said they had a ‘no shorts’ dress code. This took us completely by surprise – I understand the actual steakhouse is pretty posh, but I didn’t think that a dress code would apply to the Bar as well, where it’s supposed to be a chill-out place. The place was empty as well, so I thought they could’ve been more flexible with their policy, given that he was wearing proper shoes, not flip-flops, and his shorts were almost ankle length.

Well, you’ve been forewarned that they can get a bit sticky with appearances. Still, it’s worth the slight inconvenience of having to dress up a bit, because the food is awesome.

A says:

Definitely much better than the actual restaurant. More affordable, less imposing and equally good food.

The food takes awhile to come out (even though it was empty when we went) but it’s well worth the wait.

Unfortunately, our friend F got turned away for wearing shorts. Other than that, it was a really good experience.

Morton’s Bar
Mandarin Oriental Singapore
Fourth Storey
5 Raffles Avenue
Tel: 6339-3740
Monday – Saturday: 5pm - 11pm
Sunday: 5pm - 10pm


C says:

We met my old friend D at Halia for lunch today, another place that we’ve been meaning to try for ages. Halia is located within the Botanic Gardens, and as a result the ambience is lovely, but the outdoor seating can get a bit hot and bug-infested, and parking is a bit of a problem. Understandably though, it’s an expat haven and A noticed that during the entire fully booked lunch service, there were only 2 tables of locals.

We ordered the seared tuna tataki and the bocconcini and cherry tomatoes to start. The tuna was black-pepper crusted and served with a creamy diced avocado topping. This was pretty good, but the bocconcini and cherry tomato was much better. Each bite-sized mouthful of cheese and tomato was perfectly seasoned with enough salt and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. What I didn't quite get, though, was the watermelon and cucumber granita. I didn't think it was really necessary to the dish as a whole.

A initially ordered a chilli crab pasta, but when we saw three scrumptious-looking plates of Eggs Benedict being delivered to the neighbouring table, we quickly changed the order to an Eggs Ben with bacon. (Turns out the breakfast specials were hidden away at the bottom of the drinks section of the menu) The Eggs Ben was really good – it rivals the one at Choupinette; in fact, we recently had a rather substandard Eggs Ben there, so the one at Halia was actually better.

I decided to try the Kurobuta Pork char siew cappelini – it seemed quite fusion on the menu, but when it arrived it essentially was wonton mee, with just angel hair pasta instead of egg noodles. This was pretty good, but it was a bit too local than I would have preferred for my first Halia experience. Plus, while the char siew was good, unfortunately the kick-ass char siew at Canton-I has spoiled me for all char siews in future.

The 3 of us shared the chocolate dipping pot with shaved espresso ice and brownie sticks for dipping. This was really potent, both in the chocolate and espresso departments. My only complaint is that the meagre serving of 3 brownie sticks is no where near enough for the quantity of the chocolate dip.

The place is very pleasant, and service was very good. I think we need to come back in the evening to try their regular menu before deciding if we’ll make this a semi-regular option.

A says:

Another excellent discovery we’ve recently made on a “treat ourselves” month. It’s very expensive but worth it for a special treat. The Eggs Ben is one of the best I’ve had recently.

1 Cluny Road, Ginger Garden(enter via Tyersall Avenue)
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Tel: 6476-6711
Lunch: 12 noon to 3pm
Dinner: 6:30pm to 10:15pm
Sat, Sun and PH
Brunch: 9am to 3:30pm
Dinner: 6:30pm to 10:15pm

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sage The Restaurant

C says:

Tonight was our repeat visit to Sage after our first mind-blowing experience. On hindsight, 2 weeks was probably too short a lagtime because the degustation menu was still the same. In our defence though, we had to do some last minute clearing out of our temporary quarters, which is why we made the reservation for today.

The experience tonight was a little more subdued, probably because of what we ordered, but still very enjoyable. I ordered the escargots for my appetizer, and A couldn’t resist the mushroom cappuccino. The soup was fabulous again, and the flavour of the truffle scrambled egg is just insane. My escargots had a good texture, and the tiny button mushrooms in the gratin were delicious, but the lentils threw me off a little.

I was torn between the wagyu beef cheek and the duo of lamb for my main. For fear that the beef may end up tasting like a stew, I opted for the lamb, which consisted of a roasted lamb loin, and a cassoulet of lamb shoulder with summer beans and lardons. The lamb loin was rolled with a basil mousse and cooked quite rare. This was good but not as flavourful as the veal tenderloin that blew us away the last time. The cassoulet was alright, but again the beans made it taste a bit more rustic than I would have preferred.

A ordered the roasted cod fillet, which was served on a salt cod brandade with sundried tomatoes and a basil pesto emulsion. The fish was cooked perfectly, and I think A really liked the sundried tomatoes, but given that I’m not too keen on ordering fish instead of meat, the only fish dish that I’ll keep ordering over and over is Ember’s bacon and mushroom Chilean seabass. This was a lot more delicate and didn't have that same flavour hit.

For dessert, I had a Bailey’s creme caramel with Kahlua ice cream. I enjoyed every part of this except the quenelles of berry compote, which I found a bit too tart.

A decided to try the platter of French farm cheeses; unfortunately out of the 4, I only remembered 2 – a Brillat-Savarin (a mild, creamy Brie-like cheese), and a Camembert. That’s probably because I liked those 2 the best, particularly the Brillat-Savarin, which was wonderfully creamy and oozy.

We have a few more fancy meals lined up but after this bout, we have to buckle down in December. We’ve been eating way too well lately, and with the holiday season ahead of us, it’s time we started eating a bit more prudently again.

A says:

Not as spectacular as the first time but still excellent. This place definitely makes the list for our favs for 2009.

Sage, The Restaurant
No. 7 Mohamed Sultan Road
Tel: 6333-8726
Lunch: 12noon – 2:30pm (Wednesday to Friday)
Dinner: 6:30pm – 10:30pm (Tuesday to Sunday)
Closed on Mondays & Public Holidays

Sunday, November 22, 2009


C says:

Because we had our traditional Ember dinner on the day before our anniversary, that left us with an opening for dinner on the day itself. We decided to go to another tried and tested old faithful – Valentino’s. They’ve changed their menu a little since our last visit, but don’t fret – they have added more dishes to the menu, but it doesn't appear that they’ve removed any.

Alas, there was no burrata to be had tonight, but that gave us the opportunity to try another of their appetisers – the Bresaola. This used to feature regularly in their daily specials, but it has now been ‘promoted’ to permanent status on their revised menu. Bresaola is a cured and air-dried beef that has been aged for 3 months. It is traditionally produced in the Valtellina region of Italy, but Valentino’s mother, Mama Alma, has miraculously succeeded in curing her own version of bresaola right here in Singapore! This is despite the vast disparity in temperatures and humidity levels between Singapore and a valley in the Italian Alps.

This was served similar to a beef carpaccio – sliced paper thin on a bed of rocket, topped with shaved parmesan and drizzled with olive oil. Unlike carpaccio, which is essentially raw beef, the bresaola is partially cooked as a result of the curing and aging process. The result is a deep red meat with a mellow beefiness. Plus you can’t really go wrong with a combination of beef, rocket and parmesan. Very good, and kudos to Mama Alma for achieving the almost impossible.

They had a ravioli with salmon mousse as their special tonight, served in a pink sauce. The ravioli was good, but the pink sauce really completed the dish. It’s similar to the sauce that’s used in their famous lobster linguine.

Speaking of which, we had to order it again, and it was even better than before, because now they de-shell the lobster for you! It’s still presented with the head, but they’ve removed the tail meat, chopped it up and tossed it in with the pasta and sauce. This was satisfying as always.

When the dessert trolley came by, I noticed that they were out of the White Chocolate Chantilly cake. One of the waiters was nice enough to check Perla’s store next door, found one last mini cake available, and sliced it in half for me. Excellent service, and a far cry from the less than spectacular service at Osvaldo.

Once again, another lovely meal here. I think we’ll come again soon – there are some interesting new pizzas on the menu that we want to try, and next time I’ll definitely call ahead to reserve a burrata.

A says:

It’s been a while but I’m glad to be back. Especially after the bad experience we had at Osvaldo. This is still one of my favs.

Ristorante da Valentino
11 Jalan Bingka (off Rifle Range Road)
Tel: 6462-0555
Tuesday to Sunday: 12 pm to 2.30 pm, 6 pm to 10.30 pm

Saturday, November 21, 2009


C says:

Our anniversary is upon us yet again, and what better way to celebrate surviving another year of pain and suffering, than to head to our firm favourite Ember. Actually, for the second year running we had to have our Ember anniversary dinner a day earlier, because our anniversary falls on a Sunday this year and Ember is closed on Sundays.

We had the deep fried tofu and the angel hair pasta with shaved abalone again. While the tofu packs a serious flavour punch because of the foie gras mirin sauce, I prefer the abalone pasta just that little bit more, because it’s refreshing and just as flavourful, but in a more subtle, less in-your-face way. The portion isn’t very big, but they’re very generous with the shaved abalone. I just wish they’d give a little more pasta.

We also tried a new dish – the pan seared scallops with pumpkin puree. Wow. Another great dish – the scallops were perfectly seared and very fresh, and all the flavours on the plate just went really well together. A was clearly enamoured with this dish, so being the selfless wife I just took a bite and left the rest for him.

Our traditional anniversary dinner at Ember wouldn’t be the same without the Chilean seabass with bacon and mushroom ragout and yuzu truffle butter. Unlike A, I’ve never had the problem of diminishing returns on this dish, so I was happy to have this almost all to myself.

There’s a new Chilean seabass dish here – it comes with mentaiko crust, and is served with a bottarga hollandaise. I had my doubts about ordering two Chilean seabass dishes, but A was insistent that he wanted to try this. Well, he claims that he preferred it to my old faithful, but I beg to differ. It actually tasted distinctly Asian, a bit like sambal fish – this was reinforced by the waitress, who likened it to hae bee hiam. So much for A’s Western palate... My old faithful was flawless as always. It’s wonderful to know that some things just don’t change.

Desserts are admittedly not their strongest suit here, but I do quite like their coconut panna cotta with red rubies. A had the banana tart with vanilla instead of lavender ice cream. Both ended off a stellar meal perfectly.

There aren’t many places where every single dish lives up to expectations. Even Sage had that weird crab salad starter that was a tiny blip in an otherwise awesome meal. Maybe it’s because we always order the same things here, but I’m really happy that a year on, Ember’s standard has remained consistently high.

A says:

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

The hard to get parking is the only drawback to this place.

Restaurant Ember
50 Keong Saik Road
Tel: 6347-1928
Monday to Friday: Lunch 11.30 am – 2 pm, Dinner 6.30 pm – 10 pm
Saturday: Dinner only
Closed Sunday

Friday, November 20, 2009


C says:

The good news is that Saizeriya has updated and expanded their menu. The bad news is that their best dish – the Pollock roe spaghetti – is not on the new menu.

A took the plunge and ordered the Escargots today. They came swimming in garlic, and because they used canned snails (texture was quite soft), the garlic all but overpowered any taste of snail.

I tried the mixed mushrooms, and the spinach and bacon. Both weren’t as good as the smoked duck breast or the spicy wings/drumlets so I’ll stick to those in future. Like the snails, garlic just overwhelmed the mushrooms and after a while it got way too strong for me. The spinach and bacon was ok, but they used frozen spinach so the texture was a bit mushy.

I had the spaghetti with mushrooms and meat sauce. This was an improved version of the watery bolognaise that we had here before; this wasn't outstanding but it was perfectly decent.

A had the squid ink spaghetti, which turned out a lot better than expected. They didn't skimp on the squid ink, so the flavour was actually quite intense.

I’m still disappointed that the Pollock roe spaghetti is gone. Now that we’ve moved out of the area, I don’t think we’ll make a trip to Liang Court specifically to have Saizeriya, but it was good (and cheap) while it lasted.

A says:

What a garlic OD. Good thing I love garlic.

For me, this place still wins when it comes to value-for-money. I’m a fan.

177 River Valley Road
#02-22 Liang Court Shopping Centre
Tel: 6337-9001
Open daily: 10 am to 10 pm

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sage The Restaurant

C says:

Wow. Sage has broken our recent spate of bad meals, and we owe mad props to S. She was appalled when she found out that we’ve been living within a stone’s throw of Sage and still hadn’t tried it. To be honest, we’d walked by many times but found it too intimidating, but since we’re moving out of the area soon, we decided to come here before leaving.

Now I completely regret not having that conversation with S sooner. To think that we’ve wasted 3 months of proximity to Sage’s awesome food. Turns out the ambience inside isn’t as posh and intimidating as we feared; just a simple, understated appeal. Run by Chef Jusman So and his wife Kimberly who takes care of front of house, Sage serves a modern take on French cuisine.

In order to try as many dishes as possible, A had the 6-course degustation menu, and I ordered off the a la carte menu. The meal was off to a good start, with good home-made bread and a fabulously thick balsamic syrup for dipping, and an amuse bouche of arugula vichyssoise with lemon cream and caviar.

To start with, I had the much lauded Mushroom Cappuccino, which was served with truffle-infused scrambled eggs with asparagus and morel mushroom. Best mushroom soup I’ve had in ages – smooth, complex and extremely flavourful. Paired with the headily-scented truffle eggs, this was another hint of good stuff to come.

The Duck Confit was served on top of a savoy cabbage parcel stuffed with mushroom and foie gras. The cabbage parcel had a slightly acidic tang that helped to cut through the richness of the duck. The skin of the duck was ridiculously crisp, but I personally thought the duck could’ve benefitted from a little more fat. The meat was flavourful but a tad dry.

Before I go on to dessert, let’s move on to A’s degustation menu. He started with a crab salad with avruga caviar, tomato and fennel cream. I actually wasn’t too taken with this, because I couldn’t quite get used to the flavour combination, which was both sour and licorice-y.

However, the meal picked itself up after that and kept getting better and better. The next course was Quail – grilled quail breast with quail leg confit served on Jerusalem artichoke cream, Swiss chard and ricotta tortellini and a quail egg. This was good – there was actually a distinction between the different quail preparations, and the perfect sunny side up quail egg rocked.

The Hokkaido Scallop was next – seared scallop on crab cake with smoked salmon parfait, a dill sauce and a parmesan tuile. This dish was the reason that A chose the degustation menu, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The scallop was meaty and perfectly seared, and the various components came together really well. This dish made A really happy.

Next up was the Foie Gras dish, which was all mine save for a bite that A had. I don’t know how they did it, but the foie gras was perfectly seared with a crisp crust yet meltingly soft and runny inside. The foie gras was paired with an apple and raisin crumble, and the fruitiness went well with the foie gras.

The Veal dish sealed our opinion that this was the best meal we’ve had since our US/Vancouver trip. The veal was wrapped in smoked bacon and roasted to a medium rare, and served with a porcini mushroom risotto. The veal was insanely tender and infused with the smokiness of the bacon, and the risotto was nothing short of amazing.

A’s dessert was a chocolate soufflé with amaretto ice cream and crème anglaise. This was like a light airy chocolate fondant, and pretty good. I had the strawberry crumble – oven-dried strawberries on crumble dough, served with clotted cream ice cream. In contrast, mine was quite heavy but really up my alley, flavour-wise.

Front of house was excellent as well, thanks to Kimberly’s friendly yet professional service. The waitstaff were polite and not condescending, and after a string of (frankly unwarranted) dismissive behaviour at other less impressive restaurants, this was a refreshing and welcome change.

We were so impressed with Sage that we’ve already made another reservation in a fortnight, because one meal simply didn’t allow us to try everything that we wanted to on the menu. This has broken our bad meal curse, and I hope it bodes well for our anniversary meals next weekend.

A says:

The best meal I’ve had in Singapore in months. I’m adding this to my list of favourites. It’s a bit pricy but definitely worth it. Excellent service and amazing food. I loved everything except the crab salad and dessert.

Sage, The Restaurant
No. 7 Mohamed Sultan Road
Tel: 6333-8726
Lunch: 12noon – 2:30pm (Wednesday to Friday)
Dinner: 6:30pm – 10:30pm (Tuesday to Sunday)
Closed on Mondays & Public Holidays

Monday, November 09, 2009

Once Upon A Milkshake

C says:

This newly opened ice cream and milkshake joint is in the same building as Osvaldo. After our slightly disappointing dinner, we hoped that a little ice cream / milkshake would raise our spirits a little.

This did the trick – I love that you can order small portions without being sniffed at derisively. I had a single scoop of the maple syrup ice cream with crunchy maple cereal, which was a tad sweet but I really liked the aroma of the maple syrup.

The milkshakes here come in two sizes – a regular 360 ml one, or a mini 210 ml one. I think the 210 ml one is brilliant, because it’s just enough to satisfy a craving, without being too calorie-laden. A had a mini chocolate truffle milkshake, and while part of him felt that it wasn’t enough, any more would have been diminishing returns.

Prices are very reasonable, with a single scoop at just $2.80, a mini milkshake for $3.30 and a regular for $5.50. My one grouse is that they don’t serve coffee here. I’m not sure that they can sustain just selling ice cream and milkshakes without other beverages. In my opinion, coffee/tea would widen their clientele just that much more.

A says:

I’m a fan. I hope they do well.

A word of advice. Add coffee to the menu.

Once Upon A Milkshake
32 Maxwell Road
#01-08 Maxwell Chambers
Tel: 9823-3779
Open daily: 11 am – 11 pm

Osvaldo Ristorante Italiano

C says:

Chef Osvaldo Forlino, formerly from Forlino restaurant at One Fullerton, has finally struck out on his own. He left Forlino earlier this year, saying he preferred to run a rustic family eatery compared to the fancy fine dining restaurant that Forlino had somehow become. When I found out he was opening his own place, I couldn’t wait to try it, because when we went to Forlino back when he was still there, I remember thinking that the cooking was rather incongruous with the fancy decor and service.

Having been to Osvaldo’s twice now, I’m extremely confused. My first time was a few weeks ago, for a corporate dinner, and it was one of the best Italian meals I’d had in recent memory. Instead of ordering off the menu (quite a challenge for a party of 20), Chef brought out a selection of antipastis and pastas for us to share, followed by seabass and a huge Florentine steak for our main, and finally chocolate mousse for dessert. One of our party was vegetarian, and we were suitably impressed that Chef himself came out personally to serve her portion, explaining in detail what he had prepared for her.

For me, the highlight of that meal was the porcini mushroom and sausage risotto – an oozy, gloopy mound of perfectly cooked rice in a rich fragrant sauce. I was so impressed with it, and indeed the rest of the meal, that I wanted to bring A here to try it for himself.

Having failed to snag a reservation on Friday night (we tried calling at 6.30, to be told that they were fully booked till 9.30), we came here on Monday night and were surprised to find that it was also almost full.

I have to say that if tonight had been my first experience, I would have written it off without a second thought. It’s only because of the huge disparity between my first and second visits that I’m confused enough to want to give them one more chance.

The risotto that I was so looking forward to was a pale shadow of the one I had before. Instead of being oozy and almost creamy from the starch in the rice, tonight’s had distinct rice grains in a watery sauce – almost like mui fun. And this was after I sent it back, because when it first arrived the rice was undercooked. Clearly it was done in a hurry, without the constant stirring that’s required to create a truly good risotto.

A ordered the spinach and ricotta ravioli in a butter, sage and parmesan sauce. This was good but nothing special, but I wonder whether it’s because it may not have been the smartest thing to order.

One of my complaints, which I’ll elaborate in a minute, is the service. Asking 2 different waitstaff about the specials yielded different responses. The first time, we were told only about the vongole, and a tomino cheese wrapped in parma ham. The second time, we were also told that there was one more serving of a roast suckling pig. The cheese and ham was alright, but again nothing special since we’ve had similar (and possibly better) versions at Valentino and Pietrasantra.

The suckling pig was a letdown. Yes, the crackling was thin and crispy, but we were given 3 tiny portions from the rib section, with little to no meat at all. It was garnished with grilled eggplant and zucchini, all of which were underseasoned and seemed a bit perfunctory. The biggest shock was finding out, at the end of the meal, that the rather sad serving of pig was $45 – quite a rip-off, if you ask me.

I do think that Chef Osvaldo means well, and his intentions are to establish a welcoming, family-style restaurant. Unfortunately, if that mindset isn’t conveyed to the front of house, he may be in danger of recreating the same ambience from Forlino that he precisely wanted to avoid.

I got the impression that we were dismissed by the waiters as cheap non-drinkers who were out for a pasta and didn’t know any better. I saw an adjacent table being served a platter of parma ham and twisted mozzarella and if there’s one thing that upsets me, it’s when (a) I’m not immediately told of the specials and I have to ask, and (b) when I do ask, I’m not informed of the whole picture.

The waiters need to be more informed as well. We were deciding on a cheese, and our waitress recommended the Gorgonzola, saying it was a “nice soft cheese that’s the basis of a tiramisu”. ???!!! Blue cheese tiramisu? Oh dear...

Well, there you have it. Sorry for the rant but I needed to get it off my chest. I think we’ll give them one more chance, but my initial fears that this place would give Valentino a run for his money are completely unfounded.

A says:

What a letdown...

Osvaldo Ristorante Italiano
32 Maxwell Road
#01-03 Maxwell Chambers
Tel: 6224-0978
Mon-Sat: 11.30am-2.30pm, 6.30pm-10.30pm
(Closed on Sun)

Friday, November 06, 2009


C says:

We failed to get a reservation at either Osavaldo Ristorante or Pasta Brava at short notice on a Friday night, so we decided to try Spizzico, the Italian restaurant in UE Square, since we’re moving out of this area soon.

Because this wasn’t our first or second choice of restaurants for evening, I must admit we didn’t go with the best of attitudes. We just wanted to have a quick dinner, and I guess our intentions were apparent, because they clearly dismissed us as not worth their trouble. Even though the restaurant was more than half empty, we were shown to a table outdoors, right next to the dusty road. Possibly the worst table in the house. When I asked if we could sit indoors because of the heat, they dismissively said that there were no more tables for two indoors. Yes... and they couldn’t spare a four-seater for us because they were simply beating away the crowds... right...

To start, we shared the mixed bruschetta, which turned out to be slices of cold cuts on barely toasted slices of baguette. The only one that was good was the tomato one.

They have a pretty extensive menu – too many choices, in my opinion, because it took me ages just to peruse it and make my decision. I ended up having a flat pasta with seafood in a saffron cream sauce. This was similar to Pasta Brava’s stracci in appearance and components, but somehow it just wasn’t as refined. But I’m being fussy; this was a perfectly decent dish if you looked at it independently.

A chose the gnocchi, which was described as being cooked in a pink sauce. My understanding of a pink sauce is that it’s a combination of tomato and cream sauce, but this was just a plain tomato sauce. This was pretty boring, and the gnocchi was really heavy. I tried a few mouthfuls and they immediately sank like leaden weights in my stomach.

While there’s nothing really wrong with the food here, I find that it lacks heart and soul in its execution. Prices are pretty decent though, I must say. If you drink, they have a set dinner with free flow wine, which sounds like a pretty good deal.

A says:

Very average.

#01-13 UE Square
81A Clemenceau Avenue
Tel: 6333-6174
Open daily: 11.30am – 3.30pm; 6pm – 10pm