Friday, April 08, 2011

Eli Kirshtein at Krish

C says:

We’re both big fans of Top Chef (the one with Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio, not to be confused with Masterchef), so when we found out that Eli Kirshtein, who placed 5th in Season 6 (arguably the best non-All Stars season), was in Singapore as a guest chef at Krish, we couldn’t resist checking it out. We figured – how often would we ever get a chance to sample the food of a Top Chef contestant?

Alas, I think his (and the show’s) reputation preceded him. We expected to be blown away, but instead we got fairly generic, not particularly well-executed food that would have been quite forgettable in any other context.

We ordered the $135 surprise 5-course menu, but it was hardly a surprise when everything that we got was also available as an a la carte order. We started with an amuse of a deep fried pork rillette ball with Tabasco sauce. Not bad, in a way that any deep fried meat would be; the Tabasco sauce was pretty subtle and could’ve been more aggressive to stand up to the deep fried rillette.

The next course was supposed to be octopus with watermelon, but it was changed to raw tuna instead. It was dressed with a honey vinaigrette, and the sweetness of both the dressing and the watermelon completely overwhelmed the flavour of the tuna. I could only taste the tuna by deconstructing and eating it separately from the watermelon.

The next course was my favourite of the evening – Egg 63, which consisted of an egg yolk cooked at 63 degrees, and paired with shimeji mushrooms, Chinese sausage (lup cheong) and a mushroom broth. The lup cheong actually went pretty well, with the sweetness pairing with the earthiness of the mushrooms. The egg was perfect – I expected it to ooze and muddy the clarity of the broth, but it had the perfect firmness yet all of the flavour of a runny yolk.

This next dish was a disappointment – shrimp with succotash. The sauce had some sort of crustacean extract and was quite flavourful, but the shrimp weren’t deveined, and had a really mushy texture. I didn’t know if they weren’t fresh or were somehow that texture because of how they’d been cooked. Either way, this wasn’t very pleasant.

The next course was a sous vide duck breast with turnips and beetroot puree. Expecting the duck to be super tender since it was cooked sous vide, again we were quite disappointed because the duck was quite chewy. Some bits were better than others, but generally it wasn’t the standard that I expected.

Dessert was an almond financier with coffee sauce. Surprisingly, this was another highlight of the meal. The financier was amazingly buttery, and went very well with the coffee sauce. At least the meal ended on a high note.

Is this the standard of the food that goes before the judges on Top Chef? I’d like to think not, at least not in recent seasons with the standard as high as it is now. I guess ultimately it’s about execution, and while on the show Chef Eli may have been solely responsible for the dishes he made, here he may have conceptualised them but the most important part, the execution, would have been done by a host of other chefs.

At least we were treated to dinner entertainment in the form of a neighbouring table, a clearly tipsy gentleman with his lady friend. Also apparently a Top Chef fan, he kept bugging the waitresses by asking Chef “Ellie” (as per his pronunciation) to make him a soufflĂ© since he'd made one on the show...

A says:

Service was good. The decor was interesting. The sauces were intriguing. But the main component of each dish was just so average that I was very disappointed.

Maybe Top Chef had our hopes set too high but the food overall was far short of mind-blowing.

Except for the dessert. At least that rocked.

And a look at Krish’s regular menu was interesting enough to make us want to go back and give it a try at some point. I guess we’ll review that then.

9 Rochester Park
Tel: 6779-4644
Tues to Sat: 6 pm to 10.30 pm
Sun: 10 am to 2.30 pm
Closed Mondays

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Hippopotamus Restaurant Grill

C says:

I asked A to pick a dinner place at Marina Square tonight, but when he suggested Hippopotamus Grill, I thought he’d gone a bit loony. I was under the impression that this was another Malaysian chain restaurant, like Meatworks, so it was with some trepidation and very muted expectations that I approached the Hippo.

I’m ashamed to admit that I got it all wrong. Firstly, it’s a bona fide French chain, and more importantly, the food is actually pretty decent for the price. We started with the roasted bone marrow served with buttered toast. The marrow was well seasoned, but I think it was also roasted for a tad too long, because the marrow had started to render quite a bit of fat. Good effort, but I wouldn’t order it again.

We’d read some good things about their steak tartare, and I saw that they also had an option of a grilled tartare – their steak tartare already mixed with the egg, capers and other condiments, then very lightly seared on both sides. This is probably sacrilege to steak tartare connoisseurs, but for someone like me who still finds pure steak tartare a little too queasy, this is a perfect compromise.

The meat was roughly hand-minced so it still had some texture, it was well seasoned, and the beef itself was very flavourful. The grill added a nice smoky char, and also cooked the surface just enough to add some bite, yet still retaining the raw interior. Essentially, this was a very tasty, perfectly rare burger patty.

A ordered the Hippo burger, which had sautĂ©ed onions and gruyere cheese. The patty was a bit too thin to impart a whole lot of beefy flavour, and there wasn’t enough cheese either. Still, at $14.90 you can’t really ask for too much. The side salad had a kick-ass vinaigrette, but the potato gratin was a bit ordinary.

A was feeling quite retro, so we ordered the molten chocolate cake for dessert. I found this alright, but A was somewhat disappointed, mainly by the ice cream.

Because I came with absolutely no expectations, this turned out to be a pleasant surprise. They have a decent array of steaks here at fairly reasonable prices, and I’m quite keen to come back to try them. Maybe we’ll do a taste test of their premium vs non-premium steaks, to see if we can really taste the difference.

A says:

Unlike C, I had higher expectations for this place. But things started looking bleak when I arrived and saw the very open layout. Still for want of anywhere else as interesting in Marina Square, we decided to give it a try.

All things considered, it was a pretty good meal. The service was good. The seared steak tartare was great, but the Hippo burger disappointed for lack of cheesy flavour. The biggest disappointment was the rock hard ice cream with my molten chocolate cake.

Still, the steak selection looked very interesting so we’ll probably be back at least once to try them. I’ll reserve final judgement until then except to say that if ambience is a big thing for you, then maybe you should give this place a miss.

Hippopotamus Restaurant Grill
6 Raffles Boulevard
Marina Square
Tel: 6338-5352
Open daily: 11 am to 10 pm

Friday, April 01, 2011


C says:

A little slice of Paris on Duxton Hill, L’Entrecote serves up just one main course – entrecote steak drenched with a signature sauce, and free flow fries. The lack of variety for the main course is more than made up for with the array of starters and desserts.

I ordered the duck rillettes with gherkins and buttered toast, and A decided on the goat’s cheese salad as a nod to his greens for the day. (Alas, we didn’t realise that the steak also came with a substantial side salad) The duck rillette was good, and tasted lighter than most duck rillettes due to the addition of some parsley in the rillette. Paired with the buttered toast and the gherkins, this was a really good start.

The goat’s cheese salad was actually very good too, with slices of goat’s cheese on top of croutons, together with sundried tomatoes and olives. The cheese was more like a brie/camembert than something particularly goaty, which suited me just fine.

We ordered the steak medium rare, and the first portion arrived perfectly cooked, and accompanied with a mountain of fries. Props to anyone who actually has refills of the fries, man. The steak was drenched in their signature sauce, the ingredients of which are a closely guarded secret. We tried to deconstruct it, but couldn’t get much further than “butter, herbs, maybe mushrooms, some kind of acid”.

Don’t expect a super flavourful piece of meat, or you’ll be disappointed. I think you still need to go to a proper steakhouse for that. Here, the meat is pretty subtle, almost to the point of getting slightly lost amongst the sauce that’s packed with flavour. Still, at $29 for all the fries you can eat and 2 helpings of steak (they keep the second (smaller) helping warm for you, and bring it out when you’re almost done with your first helping), you can’t really complain.

With an enticing list of desserts, we decided to go the whole hog and ordered one each. I had the Truffled Brie, somewhat amusingly against the waitress’ recommendations. I guess she’s not used to Singaporeans having a savoury cheese for dessert, and enjoying it. Except for a slightly elusive truffle flavour, this was awesome. Oozy, creamy and pungent almost to the extent of a blue, I was in heaven with every bite.

A had the waffles with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce. Finally, a place that does a proper salted caramel that could rival Canele’s. The waffle was light and crispy, and the caramel was properly salty and wonderfully buttery. Wonderful.

Everyone’s equal here – the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so you just have to take your chances and hope to get a table. We got here at about 6.30 so getting a table wasn’t a problem, but it filled up pretty quickly after 7. Just like a typical French bistro, tables are barely half a foot apart so don’t expect to have a romantic or private conversation, but it makes for a nice convivial ambience.

The starters and the desserts actually impressed me much more than their ‘signature’ main. I wonder if they’ll let me order just starters and desserts next time, and pass on the steak. There are many more starters on the menu that are already calling to me.

A says:

Spectacular service. Attentive without being intrusive. I also like the cramped, yet laid back atmosphere.

With regards to the food, I agree with C that the only main wasn’t exactly mind-blowing. It is very filling and priced affordably.

The starters and the desserts are really the stars. Unlike C, I’m much more interested in the desserts than the starters. It’s going to be tough not ordering the waffles again, but I definitely want to try the chocolate cake at some point.

Their practise to not accept reservations is both a good and bad thing. Good cause you’ll never find it fully booked by regulars like other popular places. Bad because you have to get here either really early or late to get a table.

But all in all, we’ll be back on the rare occasion where we can get off work and get a table here before 7.

36 Duxton Hill
Tel: 6238-5700
Weekdays: 12 noon to 11 pm
Saturdays: 6 pm to 11 pm

Salt Grill

C says:

This is one of those places which are a bit too intimidating for us to attempt for a normal dinner service. Instead, I was on leave today so we came for the weekday set lunch. Located on Level 55 of ION Orchard, Salt boasts a pretty spectacular view – from our table we could see all the way to Keppel Bay and beyond. Access is from the concierge desk on Level 4, and they verify your reservation there before allowing you to take the elevator up to the Sky Gallery.
The set lunch, at $40 for 2 courses, isn’t the best deal in town, but given the prices of the degustation and a la carte menus, it’s almost understandable. Portions are pretty small, so 2 courses is good for a very light lunch. For us, we added another starter from the a la carte menu to share.

From the set menu, A had one of Luke’s signatures, the Sydney crab omelette with miso mustard broth. I expected quite a lot from the crab, since it’s a signature dish, but I found it slightly underwhelming. Flavours were quite clean but overall not much of a wow factor.

I had the Salt salad – baby vegetables, slow poached hen’s egg and buffalo mozzarella, drizzled with some truffle oil. I preferred my dish because it was really simple, but both the egg and the vegetables were done really well, and in a way that showcased them.

The additional starter was Spanish anchovies with semi dried tomato and garlic toast. This knocked everything out of the park. The flavours of each element were good on their own, and absolutely amazing when eaten together.

My main course was grilled Kurobuta pork with a huge disc of herb butter and served with green beans. The pork was nicely grilled, and the bits with the fat were tender and juicy, but some parts were a bit dry and chewy.

A went with the pan fried gnocchi with seasonal vegetables and truffle jus. Surprisingly, I think this was executed better than my pork. The gnocchi was amazingly light, yet had a nice crisp exterior from being pan fried, and the vegetables were again cooked to tender perfection.

Food was good, but will we return for dinner? Given that it’ll set us back at least $150 per person, I’m not sure. Maybe this is one of those places, like Osia, which are way better value at lunch and hence more enjoyable as a result.

A says:

Excellent view. Excellent service. But the food, which was very good, fell just short of excellent. The only thing that blew me away was the sundried tomato component of our order of anchovies.

Conclusion – a great place to take visitors and guests, for special events, and maybe for business lunches. For a regular place... probably not.

Salt Grill
Level 55 & 56, ION Orchard
Tel: 6592-5118
Lunch: 11.30 am to 3 pm
Dinner: 6 pm to 10.30 pm