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

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