Thursday, February 28, 2013


C says:

For the most part, A and I have fairly similar tastes in food; I guess our tastes have evolved together after over 10 years of being influenced by the same food culture.

Still, we're fundamentally different where nostalgic comfort food is concerned. I tend to crave Asian food, whereas A can happily subsist on burgers and pizzas. Given a choice between bak chor mee and a Subway sandwich, for example, for me it's a no-brainer; bak chor mee every time. A's choice is just as vehemently for the Subway.

Which is why MAD, the new collaboration between Dick Lee and the Tung Lok group, is perfect for us. The restaurant serves both dim sum and Asian rice/noodle dishes, as well as tapas and Josper-grilled western fare.

The restaurant has a snazzy ordering system where you browse the menu and select/submit your order via tablet. The system gets the order right, but there are still a few minor glitches - the kitchen/servers weren't sure which table had ordered what, so we kept having incorrect dishes brought to us.

From the dim sum side, we ordered a char siew pau, and a fried yam puff. Both were decent but not very memorable.

We also tried the minced beef fried rice, which I found a tad oily, but otherwise quite tasty, with a good amount of wok hei.

The tapas kitchen is helmed by the ex chef of Bodega Y Tapas, and it certainly shows. I hate to admit it but the western dishes definitely shone more than the Asian ones.

The teriyaki mushrooms with cuttlefish "tagliatelle" was really good. The tagliatelle was thin strips of cuttlefish which were cooked till tender but still retaining a distinctively sweet cuttlefish flavour. They paired well with the juicy teriyaki-glazed button mushrooms.

The Iberico top loin with apricot chutney and braised cabbage, from the Josper grill section, was also outstanding. We selected "medium rare" for doneness on the tablet, and it arrived slightly pink, juicy and really tender. The flavours of the pork and apricot also went very well together.

We decided to have gelato from a nearby joint for dessert, but otherwise the dessert offerings here look pretty interesting.

The restaurant is quite big, but they recommend that you make reservations on weekends. Their website has an online reservation system, which allows you to see if your selected timeslot is still available or not.

I didn't expect to like MAD this much, expecting more of a gimmicky theme restaurant than a proper one, but they've proved me wrong. Definitely a new go-to place, especially when A and I can't agree on what genre we want.

A says:

My expectations were low so I was pleasantly surprised. The Asian dishes were average, but the "tapas" was pretty good. And with the variety, both C and I can find something. Plus the Asian dishes have a decent portion size and are not expensive.

Overall, we'll probably go back.

MAD - Modern Asian Diner
200 Turf Club Road
#01-20/21, The Grandstand
Tel: 6466-3303
Open daily: 11:30 am till late

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Le Bistrot du Sommelier

C says:

Bistrot du Sommelier was one of the few places on our to-try list that was actually open over the Chinese New Year holidays. Because we only called for a last minute reservation that very night, we only had a choice of an outdoor table at 7 pm, or indoors at 9 pm. Not wanting to eat so late, we opted for the outdoor table and prayed for good weather.
Note: The outdoor area is a makeshift open space, rather than specifically allocated al fresco seating. It’s not sheltered, nor lit for that matter, so once it gets dark you can barely see what you’re eating. As a result, I have no usable photos of anything after our starters. Granted, our experience was probably marred slightly by the unconventional outdoor seating, but we’ll try to be as objective as possible and just comment on the food.

They have a Rillette (and Charcuterie) Bar, which sells rillettes and cold cuts by weight. We had 100g each of a duck rillette, pork rillette and a sausage made with tongue, trotter and bacon. It was quite a substantial portion as it came on a platter with cornichons and bread.

I actually liked the pork rillette best. The duck was good but a bit predictable, whereas the pork rillette seemed to have a more interesting flavour. The cold sausage was pretty good too. Definitely coming back for more of these; they’re available for takeaway as well, though I’m not sure if takeaway portions come with all the bells and whistles.

Their pan-fried frog’s legs, fried with garlic and butter and some herbs, was also quite good. Maybe it helped that it was getting dark and I couldn’t really see the legs in all their glory (amphibian phobia), but the flavours were good and they were very well seared and still very tender.
M and W shared the Cote de Boeuf (900g), and A and I had the roast lamb saddle, also for 2. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the beef – as far as steaks go, this wasn’t really outstanding in any way. The meat wasn’t particularly flavourful, and any sear was all but drowned by sautéed onions and sauce.
In contrast though, the roast lamb saddle was excellent, and something we’ll definitely return for. The meat was very sweet, and very tender but not in a braised, fork-tender way. It was served with slow roasted garlic in the sauce, and some pretty good gratin potatoes.

The desserts garnered somewhat mixed reviews. The profiteroles with ice cream and chocolate sauce were pretty good, but I expected them to be spectacular because we heard rave reviews about them. I didn't like the apple soufflé with Calvados at all. I couldn't eat more than a few bites because I could still taste the egg white in the soufflé, which felt a bit ick. W felt the same but liked the apples sautéed in Calvados. A on the other hand didn't really like the apples but liked the egg white bit.
I think we’ll try to head back, this time for an indoor table to experience the place properly. I certainly want more of the rillette bar offerings, and wouldn’t mind having the lamb again.

A says:

Great rillete. Great lamb. Great profiteroles. The beef wasn't great for the price though. And sitting outdoors here is no fun as it's super dark. For our next visit, and yes, we'll definitely be back, we'll go indoors and stick to the stuff from the rillette bar.

Le Bistrot du Sommelier
53 Armenian Street
Tel: 6333-1982
Mon to Sat: 12 noon - 2.30 pm; 6 pm - 11 pm

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nicolas Le Restaurant

C says:

Ever since Nicolas Le Restaurant closed their Keong Saik Street outlet a while back, their re-opening has been awaited with bated breath. They finally opened at Teck Lim Road late last year. Their set lunches are a very good deal - $42 for 3 courses (one of each course), and $68 for a multi-course (3 appetizers) lunch degustation. To get the most variety, we went with one $42, and one $68 one.

We started out with a plate of 2 amuse bouches, which unfortunately wasn’t explained to us at all. One was some kind of cheesy gougere I think, and the other was a quenelle of duck rillette on a cracker.

The $42 set lunch offered 4 appetizers to choose from, 3 of which were part of the $68 degustation, so of course we chose the missing one as the starter for the set lunch – a beef tartare with sweet potato crisps and a sunny side up quail's egg. I liked that the tartare was quite roughly chopped - gave it some bite and texture.

The degustation started with a hen egg with caviar, xeres cream and a deep fried tempura (of sorts) prawn. I didn't discern the caviar, but I liked the perfectly cooked egg.

Next up was the black ink tonnarelli pasta with sakura ebi. Vast difference between this and the version we had at InITALY... The light broth in which this was served was briny and insanely flavourful. The pasta and sakura ebi were good too, but the broth was clearly the star.

Third appetizer for the degustation was a ravioli with confit vine tomato and seared Iberico pork. The cheese-filled ravioli and tomato were perfect together, and the pork was fabulous - seared and crisp outside, and a solid medium rare inside. Most of us are used to pork being cooked all the way through, but when the pork is good quality and reared in proper conditions, it can actually be treated like steak. Both the texture and flavour of the medium rare pork were outstanding.

Our mains were a slow roasted rack of lamb, and the special of the day - pigeon two-ways. The lamb was very simply served with mini ravioli and some mash, and a lamb jus sauce.

The pigeon stole the show, though. The leg was confited, and the breast seared. Again, props to them for serving the breast quite rare. It was really tender and the flavour of the meat came through without being excessively gamey.

Dessert was a tasting trio of vanilla ice cream with strawberry crepe, a tuile served on top of a yogurt mousse and chocolate ganache. The chocolate was a bit too potent for me, but the ice cream was really good, and I loved the yogurt tuile.

Overall, lunch was very enjoyable and also very good value. Props to Chef Nicolas for manning the kitchen with only one sous chef. The place wasn't full throughout lunch service, making this a very viable lunch option.

The only criticism is that service was a bit sketchy - more than once we had food placed in front of us without any explanation at all. While I don't need the history of each ingredient explained to me, a brief reminder of the components of each dish (given that we don't have the menus in front of us during lunch) would be helpful.

A says:

Even better than before. While I felt the old one was a bit on the stuffy side, this place is now more like fine dining with a somewhat casual feel. The set lunch is also great value (all things considered, i.e. still not cheap). Overall, definitely would go back.

Nicolas Le Restaurant
10 Teck Lim Road
Tel: 6224-2404
Open daily: 12 noon - 2 pm; 6.30 pm - 10 pm

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pies and Coffee

C says:

This could well be our new favourite place to grab a fuss-free light meal. They currently have 3 outlets in Singapore (Turf City, Rochester Mall and somewhere in the East), but because of the ample free parking, so far we’ve only been to the Turf City one.
All the pies that we’ve tried here thus far – Duck Confit, Wagyu Beef Cheek, Chicken Cheddar and Seafood – have been really good. The crust is tender but not excessively flakey or crumbly, and the fillings are all different and all very tasty. I’m impressed that even though they’re just meant to be pie fillings, all the meats in the fillings are cooked really well – very tender and not overcooked or dried out.

Another good thing about them is that with every order of a savoury pie, you get a simple green salad and a big scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy. The salad is simply dressed with vinaigrette and pretty good, and I really like the mashed potatoes, which are hearty, rustic and have some texture from the added potato skins. We ordered a kid’s size Chicken Cheddar to go, which cost all of $5.45, and it still came with hefty portions of the salad and the mashed potato.
Not all of the pies on the menu are available on any given day, but it probably doesn’t matter because it seems like they’re all good.

A says:

Great pies. And while it seems a bit pricey, once you factor in the complimentary salad and mash, it's a pretty good deal. Plus, the coffee is great. Win!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


C says:

InITALY is a fairly new Italian restaurant along Craig Road serving simple, unpretentious Italian fare. Prices are quite reasonable - their priciest dish is a $38 lobster risotto. Starters are under $25, and the mains are generally under $30. I guess that's one of the reasons why they're usually fully booked on Fridays and Saturdays. They were pretty quiet on an early Sunday evening though.

We tried the Stracciatella cheese with a sweet and sour eggplant caponata to start. I liked the cheese a lot - it was like a creamy burrata, but the eggplant was a bit overwhelming. If you didn't eat the cheese separately, you wouldn't have been able to taste it at all.

One of their signature dishes is the Crostino, essentially a thin crust pizza with Taleggio cheese, proscuitto, black olives and endives. This was pretty good, though again you couldn't really taste much of the cheese.

I quite liked the squid ink tonnarelli, with prawns, broccolini, bottargo, garlic and chilli. The heat builds up slowly, so while not unbearable, you do get quite a kick after a while. The pasta was well cooked, and the bottarga added a nice depth to the sauce.

I didn't feel like any of the desserts, so A had the Granite - a coffee-flavoured shaved ice with vanilla ice cream and topped with a glazed chestnut brittle. Not bad, but I could've done without the brittle.

Prices are definitely quite reasonable here, but the food, while above average, isn't particularly outstanding. If you compare the prices here to those at Valentino's (the regular a la carte menu, not the off menu specials that tend to be much pricier), then like for like Valentino's is only about 10% to 15% more expensive. That being the case, I think I'd still rather have a more satisfying experience at Valentino's, or even Pasta Brava just across the street.

A says:

The food's pretty good, especially considering the reasonable price. Although C has pointed out that if you order judiciously, you can get roughly the same thing at Valentino's or Pasta Brava. I'd recommend this as a fallback if those two are fully booked.

38 Craig Road
Tel: 6423-0918

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Oyster & Crab Restaurant

C says:

This new restaurant at the newly refurbished 100AM (what used to be the Amara Hotel Shopping Arcade) is a seafood restaurant with a Japanese twist, serving everything from sushi to teppanyaki with a seafood slant. Because we'd OD-ed on sushi at Ikeikemaru at lunch time, we had more of their cooked food here.

We wanted to order their oysters with citrus vinaigrette, at $13.90 for 6, but they said they weren't available, and suggested the live oysters for $25 for 6 instead. We asked what the difference was - apparently the former are from Japan and the latter from Canada. Anyway we agreed, but on hindsight I wonder if it was a deliberate ploy to push the more expensive ones.

Anyway, this looked impressive but somehow were a bit bland. They seemed to be lacking the briny oyster liquor, which leads me to suspect that they may have rinsed them off before serving.

I was enticed to order the chicken karaage because it was described as having "kimchee essence". It was a bit of a letdown because while it was a decent karaage, I couldn't discern any hint of kimchee at all.

The oyster and garlic fried rice, from the teppenyaki station, was similarly rather lacking in flavour. With oysters, bacon and garlic as ingredients, you'd think it would be quite a flavour explosion, but it was anything but.

The Oyster Maki, which was a sushi roll with tempura oyster and aburi processed cheese, was filling but very pedestrian. Again, none of the flavours really stood out, so I ended up having very little impression of what I ate.

The one saving grace was the Lobster Miso soup, which came with half a small lobster. The miso soup had a nice combination of miso and lobster flavours, and the lobster itself was pretty good too.

A seems to have a better impression of this place than I do. The fact that I was fanning away two flies throughout dinner probably didn't help. At least the service was good, but I don't think a return visit is on the cards, at least not before we make our way through the other dining establishments at 100AM.

A says:

The lobster soup was great and for under $20, fantastic value for money. Everything else was just average; decent for what you pay, but nothing to shout about. Unlike C, I certainly don't mind coming back, but it definitely isn't a top pick.

The Oyster & Crab Restaurant
100 Tras Street
#01-08, 100AM
Tel: 6543-6507

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Epicurean Market, Marina Bay Sands

C says:

In the same vein as Savour, the food event that debuted last year and is back again in April this year, the F&B establishments at the Marina Bay Sands have come up with their own version  - Epicurean Market, which was held on 25 to 27 January. While it showcased the various restaurants in MBS, the highlights were obviously the celebrity chef restaurants – Waku Ghin, CUT, Mozza, Guy Savoy, Sky on 57 and DB Bistro. It was such a major event that Tetsuya Wakuda and Nancy Silverton, of Waku Ghin and Mozza respectively, were in town to promote the event and their stalls.
I must say that I found this better than last year’s Savour. For one thing, it was held at the MBS Expo, so it was indoors and airconditioned, compared to Savour’s outdoor event that was at the mercy of the elements. Also, there were more (and more comfortable) areas to sit/stand to enjoy your food, and some celebrity chef stalls even had waiters bring your orders to you.
Waku Ghin
This attracted the longest lines, and understandably so. For most of us, it’s the only chance we'll get to experience some of the restaurant’s offerings.

The two best bites we had were the Toro tuna with caviar and jellied egg, and the seared wagyu beef. Both were exquisite. The fatty tuna melted in your mouth, leaving a briny, unctuous aftertaste, and the beef was insanely flavourful – I guess that’s why you pay top dollar for really good quality wagyu beef.

The botan shrimp with uni and caviar was pretty good too, as was the spanner crab with garlic and butter; both just paled in comparison to the toro and the beef though.
Out of all the celebrity chef stalls we tried at the event, Waku Ghin was the only one that made me really psyched to visit the restaurant proper. Until we came home and I did some research and found that the degustation is upwards of S$400 per person. Way too rich for my blood. A dinner for two would be around $900, and that’s without any drinks. The fact that $900+ can get you a return ticket to Paris on Emirates certainly puts things in perspective…

At CUT, we tried a slider, and the striploin. Both were somewhat mass produced, so while they were quite tasty, I wasn't overly impressed. I think I expected the striploin to be more memorable; it was just a slightly better version of an ordinary steak.

The crispy pig trotter from Mozza was quite good. They picked the meat from the trotter, formed it into a little patty and breaded and fried it. The gelatinous bits from the trotter were a nice contrast with the crispy exterior.

Since Nancy Silverton, Mozza’s pastry chef, was in town, we decided to try their desserts too. A had the gelato, and I tried the butterscotch budino with caramel, creme fraiche and sea salt. The latter was amazing – I thoroughly approve of how liberal they were with the sea salt. They pushed it just far enough to almost cross the line into too-salty territory, but stopped just short. Perfect.
DB Bistro

The offerings at DB’s stall were a bit puzzling. Besides the quail and foie gras ballotine, a spiced tuna salad and a Moroccan lamb sausage didn't strike me as particularly representative of their bistro offerings. We only tried the ballotine, which didn't really make much of an impression.
Sky on 57
Next to Waku Ghin, the second longest line was at Justin Quek’s Sky on 57 stall. There was also a smarmy guy there, pimping out the chef’s own range of wines to those of us waiting in line, which got a bit annoying.

Only the black cod with lime butter sauce was good; both the mushroom cappuccino and the “famous” beef noodle soup were ordinary at best.
Guy Savoy
We almost missed Guy Savoy’s stall – located right at the entrance of the celebrity chef area, I think it suffered from bad feng shui because it was outside your general line of vision. As a result, there was absolutely no queue, and we snapped up the artichoke soup with black truffle brioche right before we left.

This was very enjoyable. The soup was very uncomplicated so you could really taste the artichoke, and the brioche was wonderfully light and almost croissant-like.
We’re still in two minds over whether we’ll go for this year’s Savour, but if MBS ever holds another Epicurean Market, we’re definitely there.

A says:

For the most part, the food was fantastic. The prices though, were very steep. You don't notice at first as everything is $15 or less, then all the micro purchases using vouchers really add up in the end. Still, you do get what you pay for, high price = high quality. And all things considered, the desserts from Mozza were a steal.