Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ember again

C says:

We went back to Ember again as promised (a week earlier than expected because of unanticipated house-moving scheduling conflicts), and I’m pleased to announce that this time, this was the Ember that we know and love. We went for the 4-course set dinner for $85 per person, but again our plans were derailed slightly. We didn’t order the roast venison loin on our anniversary because it was one of the set dinner options, but when we were here tonight, they were out of the venison and it had been replaced by a duck confit. Ah, the perils of not following your instincts…

We both had the parma ham-wrapped scallops to start, which were wonderfully seared and deliciously caramelised. Ember always does a very good job with their scallops – always perfectly cooked and very meaty.

For our second course, I made a beeline for the pork knuckle terrine. It was accompanied by another little portion of a braised pig tail, with the meat and cartilage slowly cooked then finely chopped into almost a rillette texture, and served as a crisp pan-fried disc. This was an excellent dish, and when I ordered it the waitress said I made a very good choice.

A’s second course was also very good but not as good as mine. His was some kind of lobster sampler, and what really shone was the rich lobster bisque dipping sauce.

Because of the unavailability of the venison, we both had the beef tenderloin. Finally, a good and well-cooked piece of meat after the Meatworks debacle. Nothing much else to say, except that it was as good as we expected.

A had his tried and tested molten chocolate cake. I tend not to order this these days, since it’s now so prevalent that it’s almost uncool (bit like the iPhone, really), but I do admit that it's a good, almost foolproof dessert option and Ember does it very well. Properly cooked so the centre is a molten lava of oozy goodness.

I had the sticky date pudding with grand marnier ice cream. The pudding was surprisingly light; I was expecting and would have preferred something a bit more decadently caramelly.

Because I am an ardent supporter, I’m considering our Ember visits in their totality, so between our anniversary dinner and this one, Ember is still one of our firm favourites.

A says:

Great as always. But I think I’ll stick to our usual ala carte next time.

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

Otto Ristorante

C says:

Sorry our posts are so erratic. We’re in the process of moving house (from Balestier back to the West, yay), so we’ve been squeezing in some feasting amongst a sea of boxes and bubble wrap.

We went for a set lunch at Otto, which just reinforced my view that while certainly value for money, weekday set lunches definitely do not showcase a restaurant at its best. The food today was nothing to complain about, but it certainly was nowhere near the standard of the dinner that we had.

The amuse started out well – a piece of seared rare tuna dusted with some paprika and other spices. Also, the waiters walked around with baskets of freshly baked bread that was simply too good to resist. My favourites were the soft onion foccacia and the olive bread.

We both had the wild mushroom parcels to start, which was essentially sautéed mushrooms with a light cream sauce wrapped in filo pastry. The mushrooms were very moreish, and this was a good start.

The mains were a little less outstanding. A’s light smoked salmon turned out quite medium well – it tasted good but would’ve been much better if it had been a bit more rare.

My pork belly was quite disappointing. The crackling was a tad chewy, and the pork itself didn’t have a lot of flavour, and was surprisingly quite tough too.

For dessert, A had the ice cream selection and I had the polenta cake with mango foam. Again, quite decent but definitely not something I would’ve picked from an a la carte menu.

Still, service was excellent and the meal still made me want to go back for more. But next time definitely for a proper dinner.

A says:

Awesome service. Awesome bread. Food was pretty good but maybe a bit scaled down for lunch. We'll definitely be back for the full dinner treatment.

Otto Ristorante
28 Maxwell Road
#01-02 Red Dot Traffic Building
Tel: 6227-6819
Weekday lunch: 12 pm – 2:30 pm
Weekday dinner: 6.30 pm – 10.30 pm
Sat: 6:30 pm – 10:30 pm

Saturday, November 27, 2010


C says:

When Meatworks opened at Level 4 of ION Orchard a few weeks ago, I walked over to check out their menu, and a friendly waitress passed me their business card, which had their website printed on it. I checked it out when we got home, and was directed to their Malaysian website instead, complete with prices in RM. They also gave me the business card for their soon-to-open Brawn by meatworks, at Marina Bay Link Mall. This was even worse. The website doesn’t even work (and still doesn’t to this day). This is a pet peeve of mine – if you are going public with your website, you should ensure that it’s ready before then.

Anyway, notwithstanding that, we decided to give it a shot for lunch today. It was certainly a calm respite compared to the frenzied queues at Paradise Dynasty next door.

Alarm bells started to ring somewhat when A ordered the Meatworks burger, and asked for it to be medium rare. The waiter initially said it wasn’t possible, because they do their burgers medium well to well done. ?!?! He checked with the kitchen and came back saying they could accommodate.

The Meatworks burger comes with a sundried tomato relish, which is a large part of why A ordered it. The fries were good, and the patty was pink as requested, but somehow it was still quite chewy and very dry – it looked medium rare but tasted overcooked.

They have quite a selection of steaks, including some I’d never heard of before. On that basis, I decided on the Hanging Tender cut, again medium rare. The steak was quite thin, so my medium rare became somewhat medium. It had a good char to it, but the meat itself was really tough, dry and chewy. I had to eat tiny forkfuls because anything larger would be a challenge to chew and swallow. The mashed potato was good, but my friend W’s home made garlic mash is way better.

I have a theory, but that’s just it – only a theory. I was wondering about the chewiness of the meat, especially the burger since it was pink but still dry, when I remembered reading something in Jay Rayner’s book The Man Who Ate The World. He was interviewing celebrity chefs in Dubai, who told him the greatest challenge there was cooking with halal meat, because of how the animals are slaughtered (and their blood drained), which ultimately affects the flavour of the meat. While it’s not stated that this is a halal-certified restaurant, I did notice an absence of pork on the menu, and the fact that the chain originated from Malaysia.

For a restaurant that was practically empty, our food took ages to come, and so did the bill, and the processing of my credit card. The waiters were very polite though, and even said “I hope we’ll see you again”. Er... I’m afraid that’s not very likely.

A says:

The food’s just decent. The mashed potatoes were amazing and the fries were the kind I like, but for a place that calls itself Meatworks, the meat was only okay, and nowhere near great.

Service-wise, the staff are very friendly, but our food took forever to arrive.

Overall, I wouldn’t be back only because there’s already so much at Ion I really like.

2 Orchard Turn
#04-12 ION Orchard
Tel: 6634-0026

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Buko Nero

C says:

We managed to get a reservation at Buko Nero just a day in advance! We called on Wednesday, and because we’re both on leave, we were pretty flexible on dates and times. Turns out they could give us 7 pm the very next day. So actually, a reservation here isn’t all that impossible, if you have the luxury of free time.

I went with the set menu, but A didn’t feel drawn to many of the elements (mainly the dessert), so he decided to order a la carte. Here’s what we had:

Amuse bouche: Wonton ravioli filled with seabass, with carrot and ginger sauce
C’s starter: Momotaro tomato with speck and citrus vinaigrette
A’s starter: Veal carpaccio with citrus vinaigrette and parmesan crisp
C’s soup: Tomato basil with crab meat
Sherbet: Papaya and thai orange
C’s main: Switched to risotto with beetroot and pecorino
A’s main: Tagliatelle with scallops and bottargo
C’s dessert: Raspberries with mint and lime yogurt foam
A’s dessert: Espresso and coconut panna cotta

The meal started out quite well, with all the starters really hitting the mark. It lost a little steam during the mains. I ordered the risotto because I was still seduced by the memory of the amazing risotto with speck that I had last year. This wasn’t as good – it didn’t have the same mind blowing flavour, and I think the beetroot made it a bit too sweet for my liking. Plus the rice was just a tad too al dente; maybe like a minute underdone.

A’s pasta was much better. Really flavourful and the scallops were nice and fresh. A few mouthfuls also suffered the same, slightly undercooked fate though.

The dessert from the set was the main thing that discouraged A from ordering it. Fresh raspberries and mint couldn’t be further from his thing. I must admit that while I wasn’t put off by them, they’re definitely not something I’d order otherwise. Still, I liked the lime yogurt foam that brightened the slightly tart berries.

A’s dessert was great. An intensely flavoured coffee panna cotta, topped with a layer of coconut and coconut shavings. A couple of mouthfuls made up for my dessert.

Dinner here is always a pleasant experience. Sure, some visits yield better dishes than others, but the homely atmosphere, and the sheer familiarity because we’ve been coming here (albeit sporadically) for so many years, always makes us happy.

A says:

As always, a mix of hits. Although the stand out this time was the espresso and coconut panna cotta. I’m glad it’s on the regular menu so I can order it again if I want.

Buko Nero
126 Tanjong Pagar Road
Tel: 6324-6225
Dinner: 6.30pm to 9.30pm (Tuesday to Saturday)
Lunch: Noon to 2pm (Friday and Saturday)
Closed Sunday and Monday

Monday, November 22, 2010


C says:

Once again we celebrated our anniversary (our 7th!) at Ember tonight, which again was reassuringly busy on a Monday evening. They had a very interesting 4-course set dinner for $85, but it didn’t include the Chilean seabass. I’ve become somewhat superstitious now where this is concerned – Ember’s our anniversary restaurant, and the seabass is our anniversary dish. It's worked for us so far, so I’m not about to mess with tradition.

In the end, we decided to come back in 2 weeks to try the set dinner, so we went ahead with our a la carte orders tonight. My new favourite appetizer here is the cold angel hair pasta with konbu and shaved abalone. How they manage to infuse so much flavour into a cold noodle is anyone’s guess, but this is really delicious. We also felt quite retro, and ended up ordering the deep fried oysters.

Of course we had the Chilean seabass with bacon and mushroom ragout, and truffle butter sauce. The first bite of this dish always puts a smile on my face. For our other main, we tried the roasted pigeon with foie gras and truffle sauce. This tasted good, but at $45 I must say it was disappointingly small. The pigeon was very flavourful though, and the cabbage with bacon rocked.

We had room for dessert, so we each had one. I had the caramelised pear tart with baileys ice cream, and A had the banana tart and asked for vanilla ice cream instead of the lavender. When the desserts arrived, there was a little candle stuck to one of the plates. I guess they remembered when I made the reservation that I’d been there before. I mentioned that I go there at least once a year, and while I don’t think they knew what the occasion was, I thought it was sweet of them to try to commemorate it.

This is sort of a post-in-progress, because there were a number of dishes we didn’t try tonight because we’re hoping they’ll be available in the set dinner in 2 weeks. So check back again then!

A says:

As always, the food and service were excellent. My only complaint for the night would be the miniscule portion for the pigeon. I could have finished it in less than ten bites if I was going all out...

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Disgruntled Chef

C says:

Who? Chef Daniel Sia, ex-White Rabbit chef. Why is he disgruntled? Well, the restaurant’s website says that it's their way of making fun of themselves, break the rules and avoid the usual stuffiness of a posh restaurant.

Located at Dempsey, somewhere behind PS Cafe, the restaurant’s concept is all about having lots of plates to share, rather than a traditional service of starter, main and dessert. The menu is clearly designed for this, as there are only about 5 big plates, and about 15 small ones. We dragged W and M there, since we figured the more people we had, the more dishes we could try.

Their small plates are really quite small – portion sizes are about right for a party of 4 to have just a bite or two of each dish. Given that each small dish costs about $14 on average, the costs do actually add up. We shared ten small plates between the 4 of us, since we didn’t feel like paying an astronomical $88 for the big plate of chargrilled cote de boeuf, and were just pleasantly full.

There were a few items that I knew I just had to have. Firstly, the baked bone marrow, where the bone is conveniently sliced lengthways, served with toast and persillade (a paste consisting predominantly of flat leaf parsley). I’m a huge fan of the taste and texture of bone marrow, and I love a good tulang. This one didn't get me as excited as I expected. My first bite was a non-starter because I smeared too much persillade on the toast and I couldn’t taste anything else. I subsequently adjusted the proportions which made it better since I could actually taste the marrow, but it wasn’t as unctuous and rich as some bone marrows that I’ve had.

My next must-try was the crackling suckling pig, which is available as both a big and a small plate. We ordered the small plate, which had about 5 or 6 small slivers of pig. This was definitely my thing – the meat was tender and the skin was thin and crispy. Next time this is all mine! :)

Another item that I really wanted to try was the baked camembert fondue. Essentially, an entire small round of Camembert cheese is baked so that it gets nice and runny, and you can dip bread or other yummy things into it. Here it’s served with toast, chicory and apple sauce. I had the same reaction to this as the bone marrow. Knowing how delightfully pungent camembert can be, I was quite surprised when the apple sauce all but overshadowed the taste of the cheese. Again I had to tweak the proportions, and pretty much gave up the apple sauce, but even then the cheese was really mild. Not sure if it lost some flavour in the baking process, or whether they used a particularly mild camembert. Maybe I’ll buy a stronger camembert and try to recreate this at home.

The crispy lamb shortribs were a pleasant surprise. They were dusted with Moroccan spices, which I usually don’t like but they were used quite sparingly here, just adding a hint of flavour rather than overpowering. The ribs were crispy on the outside, and surprisingly tender inside. Definitely ordering these again.

The chicken liver parfait was good too – very smooth and flavourful, and it paired very well with the onion jam. At least here, the parfait held its own against the condiment.

We had the curried mussels, and W in particular was very enamoured with these. I must say that the curry broth was excellent, but I get mussel-ed out quite easily, so after a couple, I left everyone to rave over the mussels while I slowly demolished the pig and bone marrow. It’s worth pointing out that we had a few closed mussels, which if they remain closed after cooking, it denotes that they’re not fresh. We brought this to their attention, and they brought 4 opened, replacement mussels for us.

Some of the other things we had were not particularly noteworthy. Not bad, but not dishes that I would come back for. I had high hopes for the crayfish mac and cheese, which couldn’t really go wrong given a combination of pasta and cheese, but it wasn’t as good as I expected. And the crabcakes were quite ordinary.

The desserts are worth a mention. W’s sticky toffee pudding was excellent, with really strong toffee/caramel flavour and a light fluffy texture. I tried the fig crisp, which was fig-infused puff pastry paired with a Roquefort parfait. Given that blue cheese and dried fruits like figs are a match made in heaven, this went very well, with my only criticism being that I would have preferred a more intense fig flavour.

The restaurant was surprisingly quiet on a Saturday night. There are definitely some hits and misses, but the hits were good enough that I’m keen to go back for repeat orders, and to try some of the other items.

A says:

Great service. And fabulous desserts.

The small plates were good, but except for the mac&cheese, a bit too small for four people. But I think we actually chanced upon the best way to try this place – Go in a group of four, try the dishes, then go back as a pair to re-order your favourites.

I think we’ll be back at some point, just because the desserts were so phenomenal. If only the parking at Dempsey wasn’t such a nightmare.

The Disgruntled Chef
26B Dempsey Road
Tel: 6476-5305
Tues to Sunday: 12 noon to 3 pm; 5 pm to 11.30 pm (last food order)
Closed Monday

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Paradise Inn

C says:

A-Roy Thai, our default dining option whenever we’re at Funan Centre, was closed tonight, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it allowed us to try Paradise Inn – the casual home-cooking arm of the Paradise Group of restaurants.

As is the case with most Chinese restaurants, larger parties are better because there were many dishes that I wanted to try, but would’ve been way too much for A and I to finish. I therefore wistfully passed up the fried prawn paste chicken wings and the myriad double-boiled soups, and we settled on two dishes.

First was the coffee pork ribs, which to A’s delight were completely boneless. The pork was really tender, and the coffee element in the sauce wasn’t too overpowering, and just added a pleasantly bitter edge.

The second dish was a Chef’s Special that wasn’t in the main menu – the sliced pork belly with beancurd and dried chilli in claypot. This was somewhat kung pao style, but more savoury and less sour. When the claypot was opened at our table, it was so fragrant that even the waitress instinctively commented “hao xiang ah!”.

The thinly sliced belly pork, some slightly burnt from contact with the hot claypot, was heavenly. It was quite fatty, but sliced thin enough that it didn’t feel greasy or jelak at all. This was just heavenly with plain rice, and at just $10, really good value too.

In fact, our entire meal, including 2 drinks, cost us less than $30 in all, which makes me really look forward to the upcoming outlet of Paradise Inn opening soon at Marina Bay Link Mall. We’ll skip the drinks next time though – the milk tea that we ordered tasted like it was straight out of a (bad) vending machine.

A says:

The food was great and portions (even for the small sized dishes we ordered) were huge. Great value for money at $10 per dish. A definite surprise and definitely an option for the future.

Paradise Inn
109 North Bridge Road
#02-10/11 Funan Mall
Tel: 6338-4018
Open daily: 11.30 am to 9.30 pm

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pamplemousse Bistro + Bar

C says:

Pamplemousse is a fairly new, casual bistro at Dempsey serving modern French food. We’d been meaning to try it for a while, but have been unsuccessful in getting last minute reservations on Friday nights. To our surprise, A’s friend KH managed to snag a table for 10 on Saturday afternoon for dinner that very night.

Their menu concept is interesting. They don’t have an a la carte menu; instead they have either a 6-course chef’s tasting menu for $98, or smaller set menus – 2 course for $48, or 3 course for $58. Note that those are the prices for the most basic selections though. If you want some of the more premium items, those come with supplemental charges. These supplements range from $8 extra for the uni tagliolini, to $30 for a chargrilled ribeye.

A and I decided to go for the tasting menu, since it contained all of the items that we wanted to try anyway. Little did we know that their portions are HUGE here, and they don't really reduce the size of your portions when you order the 6-course vs a 3-course. Needless to say, it was too much, even for atetoomuch. Next time we’ll stick with a 3-course.

The starter was a citrus-marinated salmon. I still don’t know if the salmon was just cured, or cooked very slowly at a very low temperature, but it was perfectly pink all the way through, with a slightly firm texture.

Next up was the porcini mushroom soup. The soup was smooth, earthy and topped with strips of golden mushrooms and a couple of plump escargots. This was perfectly decent, but if I had to compare, the mushroom cappuccino at Sage still comes out tops.

That was followed by the monkfish cheek, which was honestly quite forgettable. Maybe I’m not a fan of the slightly tough texture of monkfish, but I found this a bit dry and hard and not particularly flavourful.

The next dish was one of the main reasons I wanted to try Pamplemousse – the uni tagliolini. Thin tagliolini pasta is cooked in a rich shellfish bisque sauce, topped with uni, chives and tiny morsels of crispy pork fat. There was nothing about this dish that I didn’t absolutely love, and is the one dish that I’ll come back to Pamplemousse for. Definitely lived up to my expectations (and probably the only dish that really did).

After a palate cleansing apple cider sorbet, the main course arrived. We both had the duck confit, because the alternative main course was a wagyu striploin that entailed a $55 supplement. I appreciate that they don’t skimp on their portions, but in this particular case, the main course could have benefitted from being a bit more streamlined. After all the food that we had, I think such a large portion was actually counterproductive. Good tasting menus should have portion sizes that leave you just satisfied enough and wanting just one more bite, whereas it was a struggle to finish the entire portion of a considerably large duck leg. Taste-wise, this was ok but I actually prefer the light simplicity of the duck confit at La Petite Cuisine at Serene Centre. The best part of this dish was actually the lychees in the sauce.

Finally dessert, which was called Toast and Milo, but which actually comprised a toasted brioche slice topped with caramelized banana slices, paired with a milo ice cream on shaved nutella “soil”. I really liked this, but I’m still very puzzled by the bananas in my portion. They were frozen in the centre, so I passed them to A, and when he tried mine, he said his were warm all the way through! Bizarre…

Service was excellent. We actually booked a table for 9, and when we realised that we had an extra person, without any complaint they carried a table in for us from outside to accommodate our party. Food was prompt, and servers were polite and knowledgeable.

There were some hits and misses here, but I would go back again for the uni, and A for the salmon. Their starters seem better than their mains here, so maybe next time we’ll go for the 3 course, and see if we can order 2 appetisers and a dessert instead.

A says:

The food was good and portions were surprisingly large, which considering the 6-course menu was $98++, actually made it relatively value-for-money.

Service was also very good so we’ll be back for a cheap 2 or 3 course set at some point.

Pamplemousse Bistro + Bar
Block 7, Dempsey Road
Tel: 6475-0080
Tue–Fri: 12pm–2.30pm, 6.30pm–10.30pm
Sat–Sun: 11.30am–2.30pm, 6.30pm–10.30pm
(Closed on Mon)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Youmenya Goemon

C says:

The Marina Bay Link Mall, a subterranean mall linking the new Marina Bay Financial Centre to One Raffles Quay and beyond (all the way to Raffles Place MRT) is finally open, and given that more than half of the outlets are dining establishments, this bodes very well for those of us working in the area. About a third of the shops are still a work-in-progress though, with a scheduled date of January 2011 for all the shops to be fully open.

For me, some of the more eagerly anticipated stores aren’t open yet, like the Four Seasons Organic Supermarket, and a couple of restaurants from the Paradise Group, so for now, the early birds are raking in pretty good business.

One of the first to open was Youmenya Goemon, a Waraku-esque casual dining place that serves Japanese-style pasta. They’re so specialised that they only do pasta – no other side dishes or mains except a perfunctory salad bar. They were doing pretty good business on a Friday night, and apparently lunch services have been flat out since they opened a week ago.

I decided to try a carbonara with meat sauce – best of both worlds. This was basically a spaghetti carbonara with an additional ladle of Bolognese on top, resulting in a richer, creamier version of a Bolognese. The egg could’ve been a runnier, to add yet another dimension to the sauce, but that would be nitpicking.

A had the aglio olio spaghetti with dried scallop and whitebait. This was also pretty tasty and surprisingly fresh and clean tasting, without too much oil or garlic.

The pasta here is much better than Waraku, and we later found out why. Unlike many restaurants, they actually don't par-cook their pasta. The pasta is boiled from scratch only upon order, so given that it takes about 8 to 9 minutes to boil pasta, don’t expect fast food here. It does pay off though, because the texture of the pasta is really good, and most importantly it isn’t watery or mushy.

Their so-called “gimmick” here is that you’re supposed to eat spaghetti with chopsticks (though you can ask for a spoon if you wish). This makes mixing up the pasta really difficult and, if you’re not careful, also very messy. In my opinion, the food here is good enough that they don't need the gimmick and in fact, I hope it doesn’t frustrate diners into not wanting to return.

A says:

Good food. Good service. A bit slow, but that’s cause pasta is cooked to order. Will definitely be back when it’s less crowded. Although note to self: don’t order the royal milk tea, it’s awful.

Youmenya Goemon
Marina Bay Link Mall
Tel: 6509-4670

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Santi Tapas Lounge

C says:

In true atetoomuch fashion, we bypassed the formality and stuffiness (read: expensive) of the main restaurant of Santi by Santi Santamaria, and opted instead to sample the restaurant’s offerings via their more casual (and affordable) tapas lounge.

Currently, the tapas lounge offers 2 tapas tasting menus - a $60 and a $90 one, as well as a la carte offerings of most of the items on the tasting menus. We decided to try one each, to have the best of both worlds. Essentially, the $90 has one extra tapas, and an additional final course, almost like a main.

We started with bread and bread sticks, some amazing green olives and a platter of iberico jamon with crostinis smothered with a delicious tomato and garlic spread. The olives were delicious, and while the jamon could’ve been sliced a bit more evenly, it was still very intensely flavoured.

Next up was the gazpacho. This cold tomato soup was very refreshing, and had a decidedly tart edge that I don’t think came exclusively from the tomatoes. Couldn’t figure out what it was though (Top Chef taste-test: fail).

The next course was the one where A’s $60 menu lacked a third component – the anchovy and tomato salad with lomo iberico. The other two parts were the same – seafood escabeche, which was a couscous with clams, and roasted peppers with cod brandade. All of them really showcased the ingredients at their best. The anchovy in the salad was just shy of too salty, but well balanced with the slight tartness of the tomato. The clams in the escabeche were very fresh and sweet, and the cod brandade was very tasty, with the roasted peppers being just sweet enough.

Next came the heavier tapas. From right to left (and also the order in which we were advised to eat them): octopus “a la plancha”, crustacean with migas, and eggs with mushrooms. The octopus was super tender slices of octopus served with a tomato puree – why can’t more places prepare octopus like this? This was perfectly cooked – so sweet, tender and juicy. The migas with the (some kind of shellfish) was like flavoured panko breadcrumbs. It gave the shellfish a really good texture and was very addictive. Finally, the last item was a scrambled egg with wild mushrooms, which was creamy, earthy and delicious.

The $60 menu ended there, but the $90 came with a traditional quail stew. I think the $30 premium is worth it for this dish alone. The stew was like home-cooking, but elevated to a refined but yet not pretentious level. The quail was really tender, and the charred bits of skin were to die for. The sauce was made for lapping up, and the beans at the bottom of the dish added an interesting element.

What really took the cake were the strange chunks I found amongst the quail pieces. They were slightly soft, and looked like pieces of scallop. I put one into my mouth, and still couldn’t identify it. After a few more chews, it hit me. Pure pork fat! Man, the flavour and unctuous texture of this mouthful is not something I’ll forget any time soon.

The $60 menu came with a selection of sorbets (mango, pineapple and pear), and the $90 had a Crema Catalana (something like a crème brulee) with seasonal fruits. These were good but nothing to shout about. What got to me more were the lovely nuggets of 2008 parmesan cheese that they dug out of a huge wheel to serve us before dessert.

Definitely a last minute contender for Best of 2010, by virtue of the octopus and quail stew alone. Service here is a tad on the slow side. There’s only one waitress manning the entire lounge; I guess they focus more of their workforce on the well-heeled diners at the main restaurant. She’s a bit harassed but is quite friendly; you just have to be prepared to spare about 2 leisurely hours for dinner.

A says:

Food is spectacular. Service, not so much. Still, the relative affordability, and I emphasise relative when you compare it to the astronomical prices of the main restaurant, makes this worth a visit.

Santi Tapas Lounge
Casino Level 2
Marina Bay Sands
Tel: 6688-8501
Opening hours: 6.30 pm to 11 pm