Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cassis - Friday Lunch

UPDATE: This restaurant is now CLOSED.

This is the third time I am blogging about this place, but then again it has been longer than 6 months since last time I visited it. The bad news is that they no longer open for lunch on weekends, as they used to (my old posts were Saturday and Sunday lunches). I suspect that once the big residential projects being built next door will be complete, they will generate enough demand to support this restaurant for weekend brunches. Some developments are completing soon, while others will take another year or so, therefore I don't expect their opening hours to change again anytime soon.
Their menu is pretty much similar to what they had last year, except it provides much more variety. They have basically consolidated two of their old brunch menus and added some extra dishes on top of that. Please check here for their latest lunch menu.

I have already reviewed most of the dishes apart from the desserts, and this time they were as good as they were at my previous visit. I won't be too detailed on the descriptions, but please check my older posts for the Saturday and Sunday brunches.

The Asparagus “Vichyssoise” with Vegetarian Caviar and Smoked Homemade Salmon Tataki was my favourite dish, with that minced raw salmon and mild asparagus creamy sauce poured on the dish in front of you.

Interesting but not as special, the Mozzarella Bavarois with Pesto Marinated Grilled Vegetables and Crispy Parmesan is a light and healthy alternative for your starter.

The Red Snapper Fish, Potato Puree, Glazed Vegetables, Sweet Yellow Curry Sauce was cooked and seasoned to perfection, with a mild sauce and assorted vegetables.

I decided to try for the first time the Traditional Codfish “Brandade” with Green Leaves on the side. It's a gratinated mix of mashed potatoes and mashed cod, with a sauce around its perimeter. Overall not my favourite type of dish due to its nature, but nicely done in its own right.

I loved the presentation of the Orange Crème Brulee served with a Caramel Sauce, as the creme brulee was served inside half an orange, while the pulp of the orange itself was presented sliced on a separate pastry cup. The creme brulee was very nicely done, balanced in creaminess and sweetness.

Finally, the Deep Fried Peche with Vanilla Ice Cream served with warm Chocolate sauce was a much heavier alternative. I found the batter a bit too thick and heavy for my taste. I would have preferred a thinner and lighter coating around the peach. The sauce and nuts well complemented the dish, if only the deep frying was done more 'tempura' style.

The total cost of the meal was $81 including a bottle of mineral water. I still believe that given the standard of location, food and service, this remains an excellent deal and with 8 starters and 7 mains, it provides a great selection for a brunch deal. If you haven't yet tried it, you should!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Looking through the newly opened French restaurants in town, I came across Absinthe, which just opened towards the end of last year and is located below Oso. The restaurant is in fact owned by the head chef Francois Mermilliod, restaurant manager Philippe Pau and the Oso partners. Located within a shop house on Bukit Pasoh road, on a very quiet location, the dining room is dark but cozy and decorated in a very classic style. The staff is very friendly, welcoming and professional, and the place seemed quite busy despite the fact that we visited it during lunchtime on a weekday.

I had a look at the lunch menu, priced $38++ for 3 courses, which was actually a bit disappointing due to the limited selection (It only had a couple of selections for each course). The fresh oysters ($12 each) came highly recommended, so I ordered a couple of them. They were in fact very fresh, with plenty of their own natural juice.

I decided to try a dish from the regular menu, and I chose the seared scallops with sea urchin emulsion ($24), as it looked most promising. The scallops were cooked and seasoned properly, although the dish overall didn't have anything special to communicate to my palate. In particular, the "sea urchin emulsion" didn't have the slightest flavour of sea urchin. I am a big fan of this ingredient, and I am generally able to detect its sweet and subtle flavour, but in this case I wondered if there was any sea urchin at all.

The rillette was quite nice, served as pictured with a slice of crispy bread, salad and a slice of fig.

The pan seared foie gras was also well prepared, served on top of a brioche and cranberry compote and topped by a thick and savoury sauce. Quite pleasant overall, as foie gras always is, in small amounts. I didn't particularly want to have foie gras, but given the fact that there were only two starters on the lunch menu, I had no choice.

Unfortunately, the main course was not as successful. The lamb was slightly undercooked. The 'demi glace' was almost certainly bought in, as it was too sticky and tasted like plastic. As it was poured all over the meat, it just spoiled the whole dish. This is where the touch of a skilled chef who cooks from fresh ingredients can be tasted, and Absinthe certainly failed the test.

The seared tuna was OK, but then again it was simply OK, not something I would want to order again. I just don't have much to say about this dish. I had better mains than these two at 7atenine, where I had a wider variety of dishes, and cheaper.

The dessert was also OK, not the kind of dessert I would choose, but given the limited selection I had no alternative. I can say that the ice cream was nicer than the cake.

At the end of the meal, and after paying the bill, we were offered 2 biscuits and 2 chocolates. Both biscuits and chocolates were nice and of good standard. The total bill was about $176, including sparkling water, oysters, scallops and set lunch for 2.

Overall, I see no reason to go to Absinthe. I tried signature dishes from the a-la-carte menu as well as the lunch menu, and I wasn't impressed by any of them. As I already mentioned, if you fancy this sort of food then go to 7atenine and get the variety, instead of having to choose between 2 starters and 2 mains. If you are ready to spend and you want to enjoy your food, then this is not the place for you.

I was impressed by the way the dining room was run, as the staff was well trained, professional and attentive, and Mr. Pau seemed to be doing a very good job at running the business. This is something I must acknowledge and I can admit that if you are looking for a French restaurant with a cozy ambiance where you want friendly but professional treatment, then Absinthe might be the place for you. On the other hand, if you are a foodie and you are looking for a cheap but good lunch menu or an expensive and stunningly well prepared a-la-carte selection, then there are plenty of other places where you can splash out your money and come out entirely satisfied of what you ingested and how your money was spent.

Address: 46 Bukit Pasoh Road, 089858
Telephone: 62229068
Website (in construction):

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jaan - Set Lunch

Rarely, you are lucky enough to stumble into a restaurant that outperforms all of its peers. Jaan was one of these rare occurrences. Located on the 70th floor of the Equinox complex, Stamford Hotel, this elegant restaurant benefits a stunning view of the city from one of the highest spots in town. The soft and sober colours welcome you together with an attentive and scrupulous service into a spacious dining room overlooking Suntech City. Chef André, with a solid history of training and cooking in France, has recently moved to Singapore to take control of the kitchen, hence the new name "Jaan par André".

We ordered a set lunch, which offers a very interesting menu, priced at only $58++ per person for 3 courses, including a bottle of water. As a matter of fact, on the day I was served 5 courses as 2 complimentary dishes were served by the Chef.

We were first served an elegant version of assorted bread sticks with squid ink and Parmesan cheese. These were accompanied by butter and olive oil. They had an interesting texture and the Parmesan ones in particular were crispy and flavoursome.

Next, we were served our starters. That's when it became obvious that chef André has mastered the artistic skills of food presentation. The Panache De Fruit De Mer was not only stunning to look at, with its composition of vivid colours and assorted textures. It was described as a "Panaché of seafood in multi textures, toasted brioche and potatoes, tapenade de Provence". I felt like I was feeding from a Miro' painting. Every single element positioned on that plate was of superb quality in terms of texture, flavour, and it perfectly combined with the sauce. The mini calamari and salmon were of particular interest.

The second starter we ordered was a Tartine De Tourteau Effiloche, a "Citrus scented stone crab effiloché on Ratte potato confit and fresh herbs with Lukewarm potato mousse". This was presented on a large and beautiful plate, with the potato mousse in the middle of it, and the crab scattered around the plate. I was impressed by how the subtle flavour of the crab was brought out and combined with the rest of the ingredients. The 4th piece was actually a fish tartare, once again creating a contrasting but well paired flavour that added further depth to the dish.

We were then offered a complimentary dish. A seared tuna toro on tartare and potato. I am a big fan of toro in its rawest form. This dish actually served it in a fusion version, almost like a French Nigiri. The toro was served crossing the potato, which reminded of the rice base of a nigiri sushi. In between the two, a layer of fish tartare to provide a subtle level of acidity, and a basil sauce at the bottom to smoothen the texture of the roasted potato.

Such a delicacy deserves two views. Beauty on a plate.

It was with our great pleasure that we were then served yet another complimentary dish! Unfortunately, I have no record of its official name as it was verbally announced, but I would describe it as a Foie Gras jelly topped chawanmushi. An egg custard topped with a jelly with an intense flavour of foie gras, enriched by a subtle but distinct aroma of truffles. This is an apparently simple dish that can easily go wrong. It was absolute perfection. Well dosed, brilliantly balanced flavours, elegantly presented in a coffee cup! Quite a statement.

With such an escalation of beautiful presented dishes, I was looking forward to the moment I would be staring, photographing and eating my main course. My Macaroni De Boeuf, a "Thirty-six hour braised short rib, duxelle macaroni and crispy vitelotte chips and shallots", proved again an incredible attention to detail with a display of vivid, seasonal colours, shapes and textures. I would suppose that Chef André has been influenced by the most prominent French modern art in order to come up with such delightful arrangements.
I started by tasting the macaroni, filled with an aromatic cream of black mushrooms.

Gently poking the beef with my fork was sufficient to break it down into succulent layers of juicy meat. The long stewing process melted the fad throughout the beef, making it absolutely tender and penetrating the flavours. The sauce is also the result of a long and elaborate process that successfully brought out the flavour of the meat. I found the clove of garlic carefully positioned on top of the meat of particular interest. This must have been slowly roasted in its own skin for a very long time in order to achieve such a result. I could easily squeeze out the pulp by gently pushing with the side of the knife. The offensive flavour of the garlic was totally removed from the pureé, which worked particularly well with the meat. This is a classic example of how such basic ingredients can be prepared with simplicity and combined to create more complexity of flavour and textures.

The Joue De Kurobuta Grille, a "Char-grilled Kurobuta cheek and romaine, caramelized baby onion and smoked basil oil" was our second choice. The slices of pork were lightly flavoured, but balanced by the sweetness of the baby onions and the texture of crispy bacon sticks and a soft potato puree' enriched by thin juliennes of zucchini and a crumble on the side. Overall, I personally preferred the beef between the two mains, due to the tenderness of the meat and the uniqueness of the mushroom filled macaroni.

I chose a Chocolat as my dessert: a "Classic Ngyanbo chocolate palet, Tahiti vanilla ice cream “à la minute”". Once again, a three-dimensional painting, a sculpture that I would have probably left untouched if it wasn't that it's meant to be eaten! A mildly sweetened block of chocolate ganache with an inner layer of crunchiness and an outer dark chocolate skin, cleverly pierced by thin, crispy wafers, accompanied by a clear scoop of pure vanilla ice cream sitting on a variety of crumbles and nuts. The amount was perfectly calibrated to maintain interest throughout the dish, leaving me with a feeling of enjoyment and satisfaction until the end.

Finally, a dessert that had me puzzle since I first read through the menu: the Snickers. You would find it quite paradoxical to see such a name on a menu of this sort... the description simply states "Snickers bar version 2009", which left me with an even bigger enigma. This is obviously a snickers-inspired dessert, which is nothing like the well known version. A soft ball of chocolate is filled with contrasting textures just like the commercial version of this snack. Dusted with a fine crumble and decorated with bits of caramel jelly... Honestly, I could have had a few more of these. It's such a playful but elegant dessert, that any chocolate lover would appreciate without a doubt. Once again, the selection of the tableware and the composition were outstanding.

The bill for 2 people, including the complimentary dishes and a bottle of sparkling water, was only $136 in total. The staff were kind, attentive, unintrusive, and they had good knowledge of the menu.

When a stunning restaurant venue is complemented by an impeccable service, artistically beautiful and mouthwatering food, I can only be enthusiastic and return. I hope that the Singaporean dining crowd will have the culinary maturity to sustain excellence and reward it as it deserves. Having been to a number of French and fusion restaurants in Singapore, ranging from Saint Pierre to Iggy's, this is the first time I can say with confidence that if I was a food critique, I would not hesitate to award this place with a well deserved Michelin star.

This restaurant was also reviewed by a fellow blogger here, and also by Chubby Hubby.

Location: 70th floor Swissotel the Stamford
Telephone: +65 6837 3322

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Coffee Bar K - Revisited

The other day I paid another visit to my favourite cocktail bar, which I previously reviewed on this blog. They were celebrating their 3rd year in Singapore on the day, and I was glad to witness their success, happy with the fact that such a specialist place has been able to survive through these difficult times.

This is a bar where not only they strive for quality, but they also deliver a unique and sophisticated ambiance like no others in Singapore.

Once again, their classic selection of cocktails, theatrically prepared and mixed in front of the customers, didn't fail to impress me.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Canelé - Mont Blanc

Canelé still remains the most sophisticated patisserie in Singapore, with the best selection of desserts. And they are the only ones I have found so far who serve my all time favourite: the Mont Blanc. If I don't have time to eat-in, I take it away, but it's a must-have for me, every time I walk past a Canelé branch.
Their Mont Blanc is fabulous. A soft chestnut pureé revolves around a 2-layered core of light cream and spongy chestnut cream, all sitting on top of a classic French tart. I am not a huge fan of tarts, but ff you like chestnuts you will love this!

Canele's matcha cake is also very interesting. An outer mousse embeds an inner later of matcha sponge and one of fruity jelly. The whole cake is dusted into a fine powder. You can distinguish the matcha flavour once you cut through the mousse and taste the sponge, which is nicely bitter to contrast the fruit jelly.

I don't think anyone can argue that what Canelé produces is art and they have no competitors in Singapore. Thanks Canelé for existing!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cugini Revisited

When a restaurant excels and distinguishes itself amongst all others, it certainly deserves an update. It is certainly the case for Cugini's, which I previously reviewed and strongly recommended as the only Italian restaurant in Singapore where I would spend my dollars for the best pasta I can have on this island. I went back there to check out some of their new dishes, as their menu has been enriches with numerous appetising gems.

I started with a fish carpaccio, which they served with 2 types of raw fish (tuna and yellow tail). This is creativity at its best. I haven't eaten such a fish carpaccio anywhere else before. The raw fish slices are cured with a gentle balance of spices that enhances their freshness and texture. What they have created here is an unique dish you can't have anywhere else in Singapore. The dusted bottarga on top adds an extra layer of flavour to this already perfect combination.

I am usually not a huge fan of seafood pasta with tomato sauces. I generally prefer to enjoy the subtle flavour of seafood with the classic oil based sauce. This spaghetti ai frutti di mare is a Sicilian classic and it is not on the menu (but you can request it as a special). They persuaded me to try it, and thankfully I did! The two outstanding characteristics that hit me as I had the first mouthful of pasta were the intense taste of the sea infused into the sauce and the creaminess of it. The richness is achieved without the use of butter, as other restaurants do. The sauce is enriched with pieces of yellow tail, baby squids, clams, prawns... these flavours all come together and they are distinct at the same time!

The classic spaghetti alle vongole is a typical dish that you can find in most Italian restaurants. Cugini's recipe takes this dish to a different level altogether. First of all, the clams are shelled so you can enjoy their tender juiciness in combination with the pasta without having to get your hands dirty. But more noticeably, the unique combination of oils and parsley bring the flavours together, making this a memorable pasta. Once again, this dish is not on the menu, but you know what to ask for!
I am still thinking of this pasta, I will be back to Cugini's tomorrow. It's touching. It's an addiction.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Strozzapreti in Buta-Enoki Emulsion

This traditional Italian pasta from central Italy has a funny name that literally translates to "priest-chokers", probably because they are so good that they would choke a priest. this recipe utilises Japanese ingredients and French techniques for the sauce.

To make the strozzapreti for 2 people, mix 120gr plain flour, 30gr of semolina flour (optional, for texture, but you can alternatively use plain flour instead), a pinch of salt and a dash of olive oil. Kneed the dough until smooth, then wrap in cling film and let it rest for about 1 hour. Flatten chunks of dough through the pasta machine, and use the technique shown in this video to shape the strozzapreti. I prefer to cut the flat sheet into long strips and juggle it between my palms lengthwise making a long strand, and then cut it using my fingers at regular intervals. Also, I generally replace about 20% of the plain flour with semolina flour for texture.

Cook some pork slices on a frying pan with a dash of olive oil and season with salt. I prefer to use shabu-shabu pork, which you can buy at any cold storage or Japanese food outlets. Remove the pork from the pan, then add the shallots and a whole branch of rosemary. Once the shallots start to get some color, deglaze with some Marsala wine or Port, then add about 5 cubes of meat stock (beef or chicken) and reduce to a half. Add a bunch of enoki mushrooms towards the end, cook for less than a minute then season with salt and pepper, remove the rosemary and remove from the fire. Separate the pork and mushrooms from the juice and set aside.

To make the emulsion, separate an egg yolk and put it into a skillet together with 1/4 teaspoon of wine vinegar and a tablespoon of either olive oil or melted butter. When the water for the pasta reaches the boil, put the skillet in contact with the boiling water and with an electric whisk beat the egg until it starts to thicken. Add the reduced stock into the mixture and continue to whisk on the steaming water until you reach a foamy, bubbly, thick texture. Remove from the heat.

Boil the strozzapreti and cook slightly longer than you would for normal pasta, to let the water penetrate (due to the fact that the pasta sheet is folded multiple times, they take longer to cook throughout). Drain the strozzapreti, put them on the frying pan on top of medium fire and stir to make them absorb the juice left at the bottom of the pan. Arrange onto a plate with the pork and enoki mushrooms, then top with the emulsion and serve with optional Parmesan.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Les Artistes Bistrot

UPDATE: This restaurant is now CLOSED.

Hidden in a small but vibrant street in Tanjong Pagar, is this reasonably priced modern French restaurant. Looking at their dinner menus, priced at $48++ for 3 courses and $58++ for 4 courses, I decided to go and check this place out. The ambiance is modern, elegant and very softly lit (which made taking pictures a challenging affair). The kitchen is visible through a window at the end of the dining room. The service was professional and friendly. As we were shown to our table, we were given the menus together with verbally described daily specials.

The menu included a variety of extremely appetising dishes. Rarely I came across a menu with such a great selection of dishes, so much that choosing my courses was a bit problematic. For this reason, I opted for the 4 courses dinner menu, which entitles you to a selection of 2 starters.
On top of the usual bread and butter, we were soon served a complimentary terrine with salami and French bread. A nice and tasty opening.

Following that, they served the first couple of starters. The first dish to arrive was the 'Seared hotate scallop'. I am not a big fun of this new trend of repeating the same thing twice in Japanese and English. Hotate means scallop, so why write 'scallop (Japanese) and then scallop (English)'? I say make a choice and stick to it. Besides this digression, the dish was phenomenal. The scallops were juicy, accompanied by small tortellini with kaffir lime and coriander, served into a saffron emulsion sauce.

The Traditional beef tartare 'Au Couteau' was also very good, served with a meslun salad and parmesan chips. The meat is roughly chopped so you can still enjoy its texture, and it's marinated in what I think is a red wine sauce, which adds a sharp and distinct aroma. It felt like I was eating at some rustic trattoria in the middle of France, despite the elegant presentation. What more can you ask from a French restaurant in Singapore?

The dish that I found most memorable was the Strozzapreti pasta, with grilled kurobuta (there is a mistake on the menu, as it states kurabuta) shoulder and Morel mushrooms emulsion. I have to say that the only complaint I had about this dish is that it's too good to be served as a starter. I would have wanted it to be my main! The delicate emulsion fantastically brought together the flavour of the mushrooms with the rough homemade texture of the strozzapreti and the juicy pork shoulder slice. I will go back for this.

The last starter was a special of the day. Linguini with clams and mushrooms in an asparagus sauce. The taste of the asparagus was very distinct. I didn't really taste the clams, which I thought were a bit redundant, but overall this pasta was very well done as the sauce was creamy without being rich. Although I am generally not a big fun of creamy sauces, I could make an exception for this.

The first main dish was a Braised Victoria lamb shank with 'couscous style' rosemary jus.
This dish initially tasted slightly under salted, but after having a few mouthfuls of the tender meat accompanied by the grainy texture of the aromatic couscous, it tasted just perfect. This dish wouldn't have normally been my first choice, but I wanted to try something with couscous as I haven't been having it for a while.

The Rack of lamb with blue cheese mousse was beautifully presented and cooked to perfection. A perfectly carved rack of lamb, tender and juicy, was served on a bed of lamb jus and accompanied by a cup decorated with mixed herbs and filled with a smooth mousse that had all the aroma of the blue cheese without being as overwhelming as the original product. Unfortunately there was an extra charge for this dish, but then again the meat itself is so expensive in Singapore (as I noted in one of my previous recipe posts), and the dish was worth every penny.

The Warm Guanaja Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla ice cream was another one to die for. Both the ice cream and the fondant were so light they were unbelievable. The ice cream had this mild flavour that tasted beyond a common vanilla ice cream, while the fondant was fluffy and rich, mildly sweet just the way I like it, and it really didn't feel heavy at all. We also ordered a Creme Brulee' (not pictured as I was unable to take a decent shot of it due to lighting conditions) which was as good as the fondant. Once again, great textures, creamy and light, sweet to perfection.

The total bill for 2 people with 2 bottles of water was $179. This included $5 extra for the scallop and $15 extra for the rack of lamb. Choosing regular dishes that carry no extra charge would bring the bill down to about $150, which is very reasonable for a 4 course meal of this calibre.
I will go back for more, and I will also try their lunch menu, priced $34++. The service was also friendly and efficient, although I was a little disappointed by the fact that when the specials were announced, they didn't clearly state that there was an extra charge for the rack of lamb. I highly recommend that you explicitly ask if there are extra charges for the specials offered on the day to avoid disappointment when you finally receive your bill.

Overall, considering price and quality, compliments to the Chef. I am extremely excited about this restaurant and I highly recommend it to all the fans of traditional French cuisine.

This place was also reviewed by a fellow blogger here.

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