Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of 2009

C says:

2009 has been quite an eventful year for atetoomuch. To commemorate it, and to start a new tradition, we’re going to list our Best of 2009 – a summary of the most outstanding places that we’ve discovered this year, or old faithfuls that never fail to satisfy.

The criteria are simple – no minimum or maximum budget, no limit on cuisine type, just places or dishes that made us sit up, take notice, and vow to be back. The only restriction is that it has to be places in Singapore.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here’s my Top 9 for 2009:

1) Sage The Restaurant

Better late than never. We avoided this place on the assumption that it looked too chi-chi and intimidating, only to discover that it was anything but. Our first visit there in November was one of our best meals of 2009.

2) Morton’s Bar

The fillet mignon sandwiches are good, but the burger here is out of this world. Best burger in Singapore, period.

3) Canton-i

ION Orchard is officially our favourite mall, due in no small part to the great food discoveries we’ve made there. The char siew at Canton-i, with its succulent layers of fat sweetened and charred to perfection, has spoilt me for all char siews in future. No other char siew even comes close. Ok, so Wong Ah Yoke recently dissed the char siew for being inconsistent, but we still beg to differ. We’ve had it 3 times and it has never failed to impress. Maybe we got lucky. Or maybe we just have lower expectations.

4) Kith Cafe

Good food, unpretentious owners and waitstaff (though the same can’t be said for some of the clientele…), and the best damn flat white I’ve had in Singapore.

5) Hiang Ji at Toa Payoh

This is an unexpected but definitely deserved entry. The noodles/hor fun, flavoured with the unmistakeable fragrance of lard, are simply heaven.

6) Arinco King

Yes, at $18 per roll you could say this is overpriced. And perhaps the salt caramel isn’t quite as perfected as Canele’s. But I still think this is worth every penny. That wonderful combination of light sponge cake, burnt caramel whipped cream and salt caramel glaze puts a smile on my face every time.

7) Modern Peking Duck

Thanks to Modern Peking Duck at the ION basement food street for bringing peking duck crepes to the masses. My only grouse is that they’ve stopped serving the Big Pig, and in its place they offer suckling pig crepes. These aren’t as good as the peking duck ones.

8) Shin Yeh

I can’t stop thinking about the oyster omelette here, which I guess is the hallmark of a good restaurant. For this reason, and because less than a day after our first visit I’m already plotting a return trip, Shin Yeh has made it to our Top 9.

9) Ember

Our year will not be complete without Ember. Our anniversary dinner there this year reminded us just how understatedly fabulous the food is.

Well, there you have it. I wonder what 2010 will bring, and I can’t wait to find out. Happy New Year, everyone!

A says:

I agree with C’s except for one of them (Arinco King). My top 9 for 09 are:

1) Sage – expensive but worth it

2) Canton-i – Crystal Jade prices but way better food

3) Modern Peking Duck – I was addicted to these for awhile. Eat them on the spot. I’ve learnt they don’t keep well at all.

4) Morton’s Bar – Probably the best burger in Singapore. And even though it’s $25 (after 8pm), it’s still not the most expensive. Shocking.

5) Hiang Ji at Toa Payoh – We can’t be accused of being too atas with this on the list. Big ups to YCC for the recommendation. I take full credit for asking for hor fun instead of mee kia though.

6) Kith Cafe – Love this place. If only it were a bit bigger. Too bad we don’t live in the area anymore.

7) Shin Yeh – One of my new preferred Chinese restaurants.

8) Ember – Always good.

9) Saizeriya – Unbeatable value for money. Just steer clear of the steaks.

Other notables (but not necessarily must-try material): Hand Burger, Melt buffet at Mandarin Oriental, Smoke Shack (which we’ve tried separately but haven’t gone together so no review yet).

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Shin Yeh

C says:

Again, like Sage, this is proof that we should be open to new dining experiences. We always assumed this place was too Asian for us, but after numerous recommendations from A’s gang of friends, we decided to meet up for dinner here. Shin Yeh is a Taiwanese high-end chain restaurant, and was imported to Singapore by Tung Lok, so some of the dishes have been reinterpreted.

We took P’s cue and ordered most of the dishes that she suggested. The specialty here is mullet roe, which surprisingly comes sliced or in cubes, rather than in caviar form like most other fish roes. We ordered just the slices of roe, sandwiched between sliced tomato, daikon and leek. At $36 for 8 pieces, this isn’t cheap, but it gives you an unadulterated taste of the roe, and I must say it was way better than I expected. It didn’t taste fishy at all; in fact, it had an almost subtle cheese taste. Very interesting and very good.

Another must-try is their version of an oyster omelette. This is delicious, and I dare say even better than some of the best hawker –style “orh luaks”. Here it’s done with a soft interior and crispy exterior, not starchy or oily, and the oysters are fresh and not overly cloying. I would recommend ordering 2 portions if you have a group larger than 4.

They do a good pan-seared pig’s liver here, but this has to be eaten piping hot. The first few slices were fabulous – perfectly cooked with the liver still slightly runny inside. We got distracted as the other dishes arrived, and by the time we got back to the liver it was a bit cold and slightly overcooked.

We also tried the beef fillet with XO sauce. The beef was nice and rare, but I think their appetizers are probably better than ‘main’ dishes like the beef.

Besides the mullet roe, most of their appetizers are in the range of $12 to $18. Portions aren’t huge so this isn’t the cheapest of places, but I was very impressed with the food, particularly the oyster omelette. Also, their practice is to give free mochi when you ask for the bill, so don’t forget to ask for it. They didn’t offer it to us so we had to specifically ask them. It’s worth the slight embarrassment, cos the mochi rocks too.

A says:

I usually hate oyster omelette but this one rocks. No icky taste at all. The mullet roe is awesome too, but probably not worth the price. And the stuff here generally falls a bit on the pricy side.

I fully recommend this place and look forward to coming back. And for me to say that about a Chinese restaurant says a lot.

177 River Valley Road
#02-19, Liang Court Shopping Centre
Tel: 6338-7337
Lunch: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm
Dinner: 6 pm to 10.30 pm

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It’s Christmas time again!

C says:

It’s that time of the year again, when I rack my brains thinking of Christmas presents, and end up deciding to just bake stuff for uncles and aunts. What with the various house moves this year, I haven’t had the time to experiment with new recipes, so I decided to take the easy way out and (a) bake something tried and tested, and (b) make only one item, not a selection like last year.

I went with the blueberry crumble cake again, because it has the fewest ingredients and requires fairly little effort to assemble. I tested it a few weeks ago with A, as well as Y’s family, and got pretty good feedback, so I figured I was good to go.

I had to bake 4 cakes on a rather packed Saturday, so I was a mad baking machine. Started just before 8 am, and was done by 12.30 pm. I used the baking time of each cake to mix up the next one, and after a while it all became rote. The only problem was having to clean the mixing bowl, beater and cake pans in between each cake – that was a bitch.

A printed some BakeTooMuch labels for me again, and I tied them up with some chartreuse grosgrain ribbon that I snagged from a shop in Arab Street. I think I’m happier with my boxes than the actual cakes.

Well, Merry Christmas, one and all! Here’s to a season of feasting, family and friendship!

A says:

Surprisingly good.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Skinny Pizza

C says:

Skinny Pizza by House has opened a new outlet at Wheelock Place – perfect for us since I’m there quite frequently. In addition to their skinny pizzas, they also have some House specials (pun intended, har har), like the Sliders and the metre-long sausage.

Although the Sliders were calling to me, we decided to try 2 pizzas – the English Breakfast, and the Braised Veal. When the first one arrived I panicked, cos it was huge, but actually there’s so little crust that it’s not filling at all, and we easily polished off 2 pizzas as well as a dessert.

Surprisingly, I ended up liking the Veal one more than the English Breakfast. The veal was braised till amazingly tender, with a rich sauce and there was a hint of truffle oil. There was also mashed potato and softened onions, and topped with arugula.

On paper, the English Breakfast sounded like a sure-win – sunny side up egg, sautéed mushrooms, bacon, cheese and grilled tomato. Which is why, when it arrived and we took our first bite, we were puzzled that we weren’t enjoying it as much as we expected. Somehow, the Napoli tomato sauce that was spread on the crust didn’t quite complement the other fry-up ingredients.

Their dessert menu is in the form of a food magazine – very cool and certainly very enticing. We shared the warm banana cake with salted caramel and coffee popcorn. This wasn’t quite what I expected. The cake was nice and moist but the salted caramel didn’t come through. We tasted either caramel, or just plain salt…

I’m glad we now have a place to have some of the better offerings from House, in a much friendlier, less chi-chi setting. We’ll be back to try more pizzas and of course, the Sliders and truffle fries.

A says:

Excellent service. Pretty good food but it’s not a traditional pizza by any stretch. As long as you go in with that in mind, you’ll be fine. I think next time, we’ll share a pizza and the sliders.

Also, you can ask for an iced version of any of the coffees on the menu. The iced latte I had was pretty decent (cause I like my iced coffee sweet and milky).

Skinny Pizza
501 Orchard Road
#03-04 Wheelock Place
Tel: 6235-7823
Open daily: 10 am to 10 pm

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Buko Nero

C says:

When cousin L asked if we wanted to have dinner with her and M at Buko Nero, we leapt at the chance, since our last trip was way back on 13th February. After a number of failed attempts (they were away, then closed for a private function), L managed to snag a choice reservation for 19th December – 7.30 pm on a Saturday night.

This is where it gets freaky… I went back to our previous Buko Nero posts to see what we had, since it’s been so long. And in 2008, we also went just twice, on… 13th February and 19th December! What are the odds?!

Anyway, we all had the set and swapped the main for either the specials, or interesting new dishes on the menu.

Amuse bouche: Crostini with flaked cod in a wholegrain mustard dressing
Starter: Korean pear salad with grilled saba in a ponzu and pink peppercorn sauce
Soup: Chickpea with basil and crabmeat
Sherbet: Sour plum
A’s main: Twice-cooked duck breast with anchovies sauce
C’s main: Risotto with fontina cheese and speck
M’s main: Crusted cod with bell pepper coulis
L’s main: Beef tenderloin wrapped with pancetta, in a blueberry and red wine sauce
Dessert: Chocolate cake with caramel and home-made macha gelato

The crostini and soup were both very good. The salad was alright but I wasn’t particularly keen on the texture of the Korean pear.

A and I ordered mains off the a la carte menu, and L and M ordered the specials. The duck was quite a generous serving – ten sizeable slices on a bed of pureed potato. Flavours were good, but the duck was a bit overdone for my liking.

My risotto was sheer decadent heaven. The flavours were really intense, from the cheese, to the slices of speck (a kind of parma ham) on top, to the amazing sauce that was drizzled on the circumference of the mound of risotto. Rich, creamy and oozy – three of the best words to describe a risotto and the one tonight scored on all fronts.

We didn't try L and M’s mains so both of you – do share (your views, clearly, not the food).

The dessert wasn’t one of Chef Oscar’s best, but I surprisingly liked his home-made macha gelato. Instead of the lurid green that is the Haagen-Daaz green tea ice cream, with an equally in-your-face flavour, here it was very subtle and restrained. A nice complement to the cake.

My risotto was the best dish of the night, but to be honest, I found the duck rather disappointing. Still, a satisfying and pretty reasonable meal.

A says:

Risotto rawked.

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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

4 Fingers Bonchon Crispy Chicken

C says:

Across from Freddie’s Burger is 4 Fingers Bonchon Crispy Chicken. This has a somewhat strange pedigree – it’s a US chain, but opened by a Korean. It specialises in fried chicken wings, and what I like about it is that you can order different parts of the wing – either the drumlets or the actual wing portion. They come in 2 flavours – spicy, and soy garlic. I ordered a 6-piece of just the wings, and combined the flavours.

They packed it in the same box, so the soy garlic ended up tasting a bit spicy from the spicy glaze of the others. Otherwise, the soy garlic is really quite bland and lacks any distinct character. The spicy, on the other hand, packs a surprising punch. Looks fairly nondescript but there’s some residual heat on your tongue. The wings are really crispy and the meat is pretty tender too.

This makes for a nice snack, but I waited for quite a considerable time for just one portion of wings. Definitely not something you can grab and go.

A says:

Spicier than I expected. The chicken is good, but the question really is whether it’s worth the wait.

Four Fingers Bonchon Crispy Chicken
2 Orchard Turn
#B4-06A ION Orchard
Open daily: 11 am to 10 pm

Freddie’s Burger

C says:

When I found out this place was called “Freddie’s Burgers (By Renaldo)”, and they that served Australian-style burgers, I got quite excited, wondering if our old favourite Renaldo’s from Crown Centre had finally found a new home for their burgers.

Alas, even if it is somehow connected to the old Renaldo’s, the burgers were nowhere near as good as the Crown Centre ones used to be. They were decent and quite reasonably priced ($7 for a combo meal that includes curly fries and a drink), but nothing that will blow you away, taste-wise. Their menu isn’t the most helpful either – they have names like The Victorian, or Tasmanian, with photos, but no actual description of what each burger contains.

We sat next to a tourist couple, who got increasingly frustrated. We were trying to eavesdrop, but all I gathered was that the lady’s burger took ages to arrive, and when it did, she sent it back twice for various reasons.

With all the food available at ION, I don’t think we’ll be coming back here.

A says:

Very good service. Very ordinary burgers. It’s okay but there are much better places to eat in Ion. And it’s not a destination place for a burger.

Freddie’s Burger
2 Orchard Turn
#B4-86/87 ION Orchard
Tel: 6509-3947
Open daily: 10 am to 10 pm

Saturday, December 05, 2009

La Fromagerie

C says:

La Fromagerie is a cheese and gourmet store by Chef Julien Bompard and his wife Edith of Le Saint Julien restaurant. Located at Chip Bee Gardens in Holland Village, the store offers both retail and dine-in, the latter being a welcome option for people like us, who like to sample cheeses but feel too embarrassed to go to the cheese room at Jone’s The Grocer, for example, and just buy 25g of each variety.

Here, you can get a cheese platter at $14 per 100g, and an accompanying charcuterie platter for $26. We initially wanted 200g of cheese, but the waiter advised us that 100g was sufficient, and suggested we try the special of the day, the tartiflette.

They gave us 4 varieties of cheese, in increasing levels of strength. The 2 hard cheeses, one of which was a Beaufort and the other I can’t remember, were both quite ordinary and not something I’d order again. The 2 soft cheeses, on the other hand, were great. The camembert seemed mild at first but had quite a lingering moreish aftertaste. The blue cheese, which was a Bleu de Bonneval (or something), was fabulous – it had a good mix of flavour without being too aggressively stinky.

The charcuterie platter was divine, and pretty good value for $26. There were 4 slices each of parma ham, mortadella and honey baked ham, a few cubes of pate, and a quenelle of duck rillette. All of it was really good and unsurprisingly, in my opinion the rillette came out tops.

We ordered a bread basket to go along with our platters, and in addition to a few slices of baguette, there were also all sorts of thin, crisp crostinis that complemented the cheese and charcuterie perfectly.

The tartiflette though, turned out to be a bit of a mistake. It was essentially a gratin of potato chunks, ham and cheese in a white wine cream sauce. It definitely tasted good and the flavours were really pronounced, but this really weighed down our stomachs. Next time we’ll go with our initial instinct to get 200g of cheese and the charcuterie platter, and skip any mains.

A says:

Stick with the platters. The other stuff is very heavy.

La Fromagerie
Blk 43, Jalan Merah Saga (Chip Bee Gardens)
Tel: 6732-6269

Friday, December 04, 2009

Cafeteria Il Lido

C says:

I guess this is Il Lido’s attempt at tapping the mass market but besides the name, there’s not much of a connection between this place and the fine dining restaurant. The decor at the simple eatery located within the Fountain Terrace at Suntec City is quite bare and no-frills, and the food is no different. It was pretty empty on a Friday night, which didn't really reassure us when we walked in.

Do take note that prices have increased since the article/review in the Sunday Times a few months ago. In the article, it listed a pasta at $5.90, and mains like baked snapper at $9.90. However, over the course of a few months prices have increased quite significantly – I don't think any pasta was under $10, and the baked sea bream that I ordered was close to $15. At those prices, I expect fairly decent quality, since it’s on par or even more expensive than Saizeriya and the Market @ Central.

If the prices had been as per the Sunday Times article, I don’t think I would have any reason to be dissatisfied. But with the price hikes, my expectations are also raised and I don’t think the place fully delivered on that front. The four cheese pizza was pretty good, but then again, copious amounts of mascarpone cheese are usually enough to make me happy.

The pizza was a decent size, but the baked sea bream I ordered was considerably less generous. Just 2 thin fillets, a few squid rings and some very undernourished clams. The flavour was alright – the olives enhanced the tomato sauce, but I don't think this was worth the price.

We figured we could fit in a pasta to share, so we tried the Bolognese, since it was listed as a specialty. This was quite bland and uninspired, and not really worth the $10+ price tag. I know I sound fussy, but that's because there are other places that serve better pasta at lower prices.

Still, there was nothing tragically wrong with the food. If you’re wandering around the Fountain Terrace and feel like a rather generic pizza/pasta meal, this is certainly a viable option.

A says:

Average. I’d go for the pizza rather than the pasta.

Cafeteria Il Lido
3 Temasek Boulevard
#B1-012 Suntec City Mall
Tel: 6883-2341
Open daily: 11.30 am – 10 pm

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