Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sin Thor Bak Koot Teh

C says

Sin Thor Bak Koot Teh is apparently pretty famous; it’s the one that used to be at Eunos MRT, and later moved to Aliwal Road. It’s moved to the Kopitiam at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, and colleague C was kind enough to give me the recommendation, since that area is now our kampong.

To be as objective as possible, we ordered our usual – the long pork ribs, giam chye, you tiao and added a braised tau pok as well.

The verdict? It was ok, and certainly better than Ng Ah Sio, but it still ain’t no Founder. The meat on the ribs came clean off the bone, but it was still quite tough and dry. The soup wasn’t very peppery, and big minus point for me is that they threw in a bunch of coriander, which I had to fish out asap. The giam chye wasn't too bad, though.

Founder is still the best bak kut teh, in my opinion. By a mile.

A says:

The soup was interesting and the you tiao was great. But otherwise, definitely not worth making a special trip down for.

Sin Thor Bak Koot Teh
Block 1, Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre
Stall #01-02, Kopitiam

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


C says:

Another awesome meal at Valentino. This time we had the burrata and the lobster pasta, both of which eluded us during our last visit. This is kind of our last hurrah before we embark on a slightly more cholesterol-friendly diet next year. We’re still atetoomuch, and we won’t say no to a good burrata on a special occasion, but no more cheese platters for no real reason any more. Time to face facts – we ain’t no spring chickens no more.

Anyway, the burrata was outstanding. Paired with fabulous cherry tomatoes (the tomatoes here are always so wonderfully flavourful and sweet) and good olive oil, the creaminess of the cheese was to die for, and a fitting yet bittersweet farewell to the rich foods that we know and love. Sigh.

They had the octopus starter again so we ordered that, but I think it was grilled slightly too long so it wasn’t as orgasmic as when we first tried it. I still liked the contrast of the tender octopus and the smoky charred exterior, but some parts were a tad chewy.

The lobster pasta with pink sauce was excellent as usual. If I had one complaint, it would be that I wish they reverted to deshelling the lobster like they did previously. By the time I managed to shell both halves, the pasta was no longer piping hot. But I do appreciate that some people like to see the actual crustacean, so that they know that they’re getting what they paid for.

In the spirit of Christmas, we (perhaps erroneously, on hindsight) ordered the turkey roulade wrapped with parma ham, and served on a bed of mashed potatoes. The potatoes were great – creamy without being too rich and buttery, and the parma ham really added a kick to the turkey. Still, this lacked the oomph that the kitchen is capable of.

We need another special occasion to come back here soon. Maybe an early Valentine’s dinner? Hmm…

A says:

Another winning meal with awesome service.

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

Carl’s Jr

C says:

Quick one. After hearing cousin C wax lyrical about Carl’s Jr’s Thickburgers, we decided to try it for ourselves when we were at Vivocity today. We shared the Portobello Mushroom one, which in my opinion is the best Carl’s Jr burger flavour.

Thank goodness we shared it, and now I know what their tagline “It’s gonna get messy” means. This was absolutely impossible to eat as a burger. I had to do the loser thing and asked for a knife, and ate it deconstructed.

It’s really good cos you get a full-on beefy rush, but personally I’ll stick to the regular Portobello burger in future. At least I can eat it as a proper burger. Oh, their hand cut skin-on fries rock as well. I’d much rather have the burgers here than the lacklustre one that we had at Meatworks.

A says:

It’s really expensive as fast food goes, but definitely worth it for a treat. If you’re not on a diet.

Monday, December 27, 2010


C says:

Another blast from the past. Presented with limited choices at IMM when we had dinner with A’s folks, he decided on… Swensen’s. He was probably trying to recapture his youth as he advances in age (happy birthday, A). Unfortunately, either the standard has deteriorated, or our palates have gotten more honed, but this really didn’t do very much for us.

A’s folks ordered a set, which came with a soup of the day. No effort was made to tell us what the soup was, so we were left guessing and even after tasting it, I still can’t figure out what the flavour was supposed to be. Maybe carrot? Possibly pumpkin? Oh well.

Between the 4 of us, we had the lasagne, fish and chips, a hamburger pizza, and beef stroganoff baked rice. The latter two were the only things that were noteworthy, mainly because they were fairly interesting. The pizza was a deconstructed hamburger on a pizza base – minced beef, cheese, onions and pickles.

The beef stroganoff rice was actually pretty decent, but quite Asian-inspired. The beef tasted like Chinese-style stewed beef brisket, so I wasn’t complaining.

The chocolate milkshake was the main reason that A chose Swensen’s, but I think he was slightly disappointed. The milkshake wasn’t properly blended, so there was a whole chunk of ice cream that still hadn’t melted.

Service was terrible. We had a very surly restaurant manager that looked and behaved like he’d rather be anywhere else. Trust me, dude, the feeling was mutual.

A says:

Old school blast from the past. The service (except for the cashier who went out of her way to help us) was horrible. The food came out quickly though. The standard’s passable if you stick to those labelled “All-time favourite”. And if you keep your expectations low. The biggest disappointment of the night was the chocolate milkshake. Sigh.

Not recommended unless you’re trying to be ironic.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Best. Christmas. Gift. Ever.

C says:

For the second year running, my lovely aunt presented us with a delectable Christmas gift – an entire side of smoked salmon. That’s 1 kg of smoky, savoury goodness just for us. I like smoked salmon but this is all A. He was practically salivating when I was carefully portioning the slices into separate bags for easy thawing.

I start out having grand plans of making everything from little hors d’oeuvres and pasta with a smoked salmon and lemon cream sauce. But the festive period laziness usually gets the better of me, and more often than not we end up savouring the salmon on toasted bagels with a schmear of cream cheese, a squeeze of lemon and some sliced red onion.

Merry Christmas, one and all.

A says:

Awesome. I might actually OD on salmon and get mercury poisoning.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ma Maison

C says:

We were at Parco at about 8 pm on a Friday so needless to say, there was a line outside Nantsuttei. We didn't want to wait, so instead we wandered around the rest of the restaurants and chanced upon Ma Maison, an eatery with somewhat of an identity crisis. The food is typical European done Japanese style – Hamburg steak (which seems to be their specialty), and Japanese-style pastas. The decor is also a mish mash, with curios from US, UK and Germany, to name a few.

We decided to try one of each – a Hamburg steak, and a pasta. We tried the special Hamburg steak, which was stuffed with a scallop. A bit strange, but quite a pleasant surprise to slice into it and find a whole scallop. The patty was quite flavourful and it had a nice char to it.

We had the Japanese pasta with egg, bacon and mushrooms, but more of a sautéed style rather than the expected carbonara. This was decent but the Hamburg steak was much better.

Service was good, and it’s interesting how they present you with the “bill” – a big key which you then bring to the cash counter to make payment.

We just missed the opening of their Ma Maison dessert cafe, which is slated to open tomorrow (18 December), also at Parco. Bummer, cos they sell Japanese style desserts and I really would’ve liked to try them. Guess another visit to Parco is on the cards.

A says:

This old school French-themed Jap coffee house is interesting to check out. The food’s decent and the service is excellent, but other than for a gimmicky kind of meal, not really someplace I’d regularly frequent.

Ma Maison
9 Raffles Boulevard
PARCO Marina Bay
Tel: 6338-9391

Friday, December 10, 2010

Madison Deli

C says:

The Marina Bay Link Mall is now our destination of choice when we have no other plans on a Friday night. Compared to the chaos of the mall at lunch times, it’s pretty deserted in the evenings, which means being able to get a table at practically any restaurant there without any prior reservations.

Tonight we decided to have something light, and tried the sandwiches at Madison Deli. Madison Deli is opened by an ex-banker from New York, who decided to open his own joint after not being able to find decent delis in Singapore that serve authentic New York fare. To ensure quality and standards, almost everything is made in-house, from the roast beef to the coleslaw. In fact, one of the reasons he doesn’t currently have a Reuben sandwich on the menu, is because he hasn’t been able to find pastrami that lives up to his high expectations.

The roast beef here is outstanding. Tender, flavourful and sliced into paper thin slices, it features in a number of sandwiches here. A tried the Jersey Special, which had roast beef, coleslaw, swiss cheese and Russian dressing on a Turkish bun. For someone who’s not a huge sandwich fan, this was a damn good one.

While many of the roast beef sandwiches looked enticing, we decided to try another meat so I had the Madison BBQ pork sandwich, with hand pulled pork, homemade bbq sauce, coleslaw and jalapeno relish on a toasted ciabattaThis was good too, but I found it a tad too tart and acidic for liking, specially compared to the awesome beef sandwich.

I must admit that as good as the sandwiches here are, I’m rarely in a mood where I actually crave a sandwich, but I know A sometimes does, so when I’m feeling ambivalent about where we eat and if he really wants this, I won’t be averse to it. Compared to, say, Subway.

A says:

Great sandwich. Although for $13 for a more premium sandwich, it’s a bit on the expensive side. We’ll definitely be back at some point though.

Madison Deli
#B2-68/69 Marina Bay Financial Centre
Weekdays: 8 am to 10 pm
Weekends: 10 am to 10 pm

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


C says:

We celebrated the end of our leave with lunch at Clifford at Fullerton Bay Hotel. One of the main reasons I wanted to come here was because I’d tried the food at Lantern, which apparently shares a kitchen with Clifford. The (albeit overpriced) truffle fries at Lantern were so awesome that I really wanted A to try them.

They have a set lunch at Clifford, but the menu was pretty sad today because I think some places are now pretty full on with their festive menus, and Clifford is no exception. Needless to say, pumpkin and chestnut soup or roast capon roll is not how I want to experience Clifford, so we ended up ordering off the a la carte menu. We decided to share 3 starters and a main.

To start, we had the lobster and scallop carpaccio with black truffle. I was a bit surprised because from the description on the menu, I expected the lobster to be raw as well. Still, this was very good. Maybe a tad too acidic and I don’t think the truffles were strictly necessary, but a promising first dish.

A wanted the French onion soup, but this was very ordinary and watered down, and the cheese crouton on top was almost like an afterthought and not very cheesy at all.

At least the fries didn’t disappoint. The truffle oil was a bit inconsistently distributed, but the shoestring fries were great – really crispy on the outside and still soft and fluffy inside. This gets my vote for best truffle fries in Singapore. Plus they serve Heinz ketchup, so bonus point there.

Then the main arrived, and standards dropped again. We ordered the roasted cod with a saffron and chorizo risotto. The seasoning on the dish was way too delicate, and the risotto was a terrible let down. It was overcooked, mushy, and still flavourless despite the chunks of chorizo which should have given it some serious flavour.

Except for the carpaccio and the fries, the food here was quite disappointing. Plus I was quite unimpressed with the service. First, they gave us the wrong menu – the dinner menu rather than the lunch menu. Then we were served by a waitress who, while being very civil to us, gave me the distinct impression that she was rolling her eyes at us internally for (a) not ordering sparkling or still water, (b) not having wine, and (c) sharing our orders.

Poor service seems to be the order of the day at the hotel in general – my visit to Lantern was also let down by terribly slow and simply inept service.

A says:

The food was totally not worth the price.

80 Collyer Quay
Fullerton Bay Hotel
Tel: 6597-5288
Breakfast: 6.30 am to 10.30 am
Lunch: 12 noon to 2.30 pm
Dinner: 6.30 pm to 10.30 pm

Friday, December 03, 2010


C says:

We’ve been put off by long snaking queues at ramen joints, so we’ve been refraining from trying places like Ippudo at Mandarin Gallery, and this one, Nantsuttei at Parco Millenia Walk. We happened to be here early on Friday, before 7, and managed to get a table right before the queues started forming.

Their specialty here is ramen with a tonkotsu broth – the milky white pork bone soup. Their unique feature is the addition of a fragrant black “ma yu”, created by frying garlic over 7 phases and blending it into sesame oil. We discovered only after dinner that upon request, they can also ramp up the garlic quotient even more with freshly squeezed “garlic juice”.

A ordered the traditional chashu ramen, which came with lots of spring onion, and a few slices of tender char siew. I ordered the “Dragon Ramen”, which was the same except I had just one slice of char siew, and had some spicy minced pork instead.

As far as ramens go, this was surprisingly light and not very jelak. I expected the broth to be thicker and richer, but this was actually quite delicate. I preferred mine because of the added flavour from the minced pork, but overall I expected more flavour from the ma oil.

So, this is good, but is it worth standing in line for more than 15 minutes during peak hours? Not in my opinion.

A says:

Between the two Ramen joints there, I’d recommend this one for sure.

9 Raffles Boulevard
#P03-06 Parco Marina Bay, Millenia Walk
Tel: 6337-7166
Open daily: 11.30 am to 10.30 pm

Bangkok Jam

C says:

This is a slightly random post, but we were at Great World City today and decided to try Bangkok Jam for lunch which, as its name suggests, serves Thai food with a modern twist.

We were both drawn to the fried noodles with crab and bacon. This was good – what’s there not to like, with noodles, crab and bacon? A found the noodles a tad too dry though, as they started clumping up and had to be loosened with some soup.

The tom yum kway teow soup was ok, but I found it a little too sweet and without the added chilli padi, it lacked a bit of kick. I must say they were very generous with the ingredients though – full of seafood and mushrooms.

My favourite, unsurprisingly, was the chicken wing starter. First off, they only serve the wing portion, and to make it even easier to eat, they cut that into half. It was served with dried chilli, cashew nuts and some very addictive but potent fried garlic.

We were quite surprised that the place was almost full for a weekday lunch, but after trying the food it was understandable. The food was better than expected and fairly reasonable, and I think we’ll be coming back for more whenever we’re at Great World.

A says:

Surprisingly good. The Thai Iced Tea wasn’t as great as I expected though.

Bangkok Jam
1 Kim Seng Promenade
#02-26 Great World City
Tel: 6732-4523
Weekdays: 11.30 am – 3 pm; 6 pm – 10 pm
Weekends: 11.30 am – 10 pm

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