Sunday, May 30, 2010

Keisuke Tokyo

Food & beverage in Singapore never stops surprising me. To be more specific, it's the reaction of the public which I find more surprising. A typical example is the Ramen restaurants that opened at the new PARCO shopping centre (at Millenia Walk). Keisuke Ramen serves a prawn stock based soup, while Nantsuttei serves the more classic pork bone stock, with a "deep fried garlic and sesame" oil. I tried Nantsuttei some time ago since I love tonkotsu, and I was heavily disappointed with their Ramen, which tasted totally aseptic. There was no real body, no focus, no soul to them. And yet, there is a never ending queue outside the shop, no matter what time or what day of the week. Quite a mystery really, since we do have other Ramen shops that serve the real thing, just like in Japan...

Right opposite, Keisuke Tokyo serves ramen of a totally different calibre in a beautifully comfortable setting, for about the same price. It is a real gourmet ramen, Tokyo (shoyu based) style. This is perhaps the first shop that dares serving a different soup, prawn based in this case. They start from Japanese imported amaebi (sweet prawns), they roast the shells and then slowly cook them in chicken stock, to obtain a superbly intense soup. Many say that the soup has a "French" flavour to it, since the Chef has been trained to French cooking. The fact is that his Ramen has a totally authentic Tokyo flavour, just like some of the Ramen I tasted in Tokyo. This really reminded me of Nagi Ramen, which used sardines instead of prawns, for an even more robust stock.

Back to Keisuke's ramen, I can only be thankful to him for bringing such a delicacy to Singapore, and I just hope that gradually people will understand it and appreciate it. From the queues at the opposite restaurant, it seems like the crowds still prefer average, standard flavour to something they are unfamiliar with. Yet, Keisuke's Ramen
are the ones with a taste that is closest to the Singapore palate. Think prawn mee, just in a totally different league: beautifully firm noodles in a robust prawn broth, with layers of flavours emerging from the thinly shopped chillies and orange zest.

I would not recommend the miso or chilly based versions. Just try the original, and if you are really hungry go for the "Special", which includes all the extra toppings you can have. The flavoured chicken is incredibly juicy, the egg is not soft and runny inside as Marutama serves it, but it is well flavoured and works well with the ramen. The wontons have a nice, firm wrapping and it releases a pungent chive flavour to the bite.

Once again, my hope is that the Singapore market will be open minded enough to accept something new and so well executed, and that over time, such variety will be acknowledged and survive.

Keisuke Tokyo
Location: PARCO (Millenia Walk) P03-02

Orecchiette ai broccoli e salsiccia

Orecchiette is a typical pasta from Puglia, a region in the south of Italy, and it literally means "small ears". This type of pasta has a very firm bite and rough texture.

For this recipe, I used the pasta brand "Rustichella d'abruzzo" (pictured), which I purchased at Medi-ya, Liang Court. The traditional recipe comes in two versions, one with anchovies and one with sausage. These are the ingredients required for the sausage and broccoli version, for 3-4 people:
  • 250g orecchiette
  • 500g broccoli
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 2 Italian sausages
  • 8 shallots
  • white wine
  • Parmesan / Pecorino cheese
In a large saucepan (I never use non-stick, so use a plain metal pan), pour a generous amount of olive oil, bring it up to the heat, and add the sausage cut into chunks. Fry it until well cooked, then remove it from the pan. with the pan back on the heat, pour enough white wine to deglaze the traces of sausage and vigorously detach them from the bottom of the pan.
Add the chopped shallots and fry them until golden, then add the broccoli, fry them for a couple of minutes in the hot oil then pour the chicken stock, salt and cover.
Once the stock is bubbling, remove the lid and keep cooking and stirring until the stock is reduced to a third. Remove from the fire and set aside.

Bring some water to the boil in a saucepan, salt it and add the orecchiette. While these will be boiling, separate about 60% of the cooked broccoli and put them into a blender together with the juice at the bottom of the pan and some grated Parmesan. Blend for about 30 seconds, just enough to make a nice and thick broccoli sauce. put the sausage back in the pan with the remaining broccoli and reheat just a minute before the pasta is ready.
When cooked, drain the orecchiette, sautee' them with the broccoli and sausage for 20 seconds, then serve on a plate topped with the blended sauce.

Friday, May 28, 2010

FiftyThree - Lunch

A beautiful, elegant and sophisticated restaurant carved within the second floor of a shop house located at the appendix of Fort Canning. The deco is sleek and modern, with natural colors and materials. Unfinished wood, stone and fabrics create a sober and bright atmosphere that marries well with what's on the menu.

The lunch menu includes two options: a 5 course lunch priced S$85 and a 3 course priced S$53. The S$85 menu requires to be ordered by the whole table.

To start with, we were served some tapioca crisps with a carrot and hazelnut sauce. This was beautifully presented and the chips were crispy and light.

The presentation of the bread was impressive. A gunny sack filled with two potato and two charcoal loafs of bread. The texture of both types of bread was enhanced by a light butter topped with roasted barley. I extremely enjoyed the fragrant flavour of the barley with their specially made bread.

The "Scallop and Hairy Bittercress Chicken 'Oysters' and Buckwheat" was outstanding. A huge, meaty scallop was surrounded by oyster looking pieces of chicken, that tasted as bouncy as oysters.

I unexpectedly enjoyed the "Japanese Tomatoes Watermelon and Horseradish". It sounds so simple and unexciting, but besides the freshness and full flavour of these peeled cherry tomatoes, what really made this dish work for me was the frozen cloud of horseradish. That icy tang combined with the vegetables just added a new dimension to an otherwise plain dish.

My next choice was the "Welsh Lamb Rump, Root Vegetables". A rare lamb rump was cut into juicy slices, arranged below thin and crispy slices of radish. Overall the main dish worked well and I would have this again.

The "Red Gunard and Hazelnut Beluga Lentils and Smoked Eel" was nice, although I couldn't find any hint of smoked eel. Tasty lentils well accompanied the firm and juicy texture of the fish.

I absolutely loved this dessert, but then again it's quite easy to make me happy when it comes to chocolate! "The Amedei - Chuao Banana and Malt" was a chocolate ganache garnished with a charcoal-like crumble, air-popped barley and some caramelized banana.

The "Amaou Strawberries and Pistachio
Tahitian Vanilla"
was a classic combination of fresh strawberries with cinnamon flavoured crumble and a delicious thick pistachio sauce. This was a fresh and light dessert for those who prefer the fruity option. I would personally choose the chocolate dessert next time.

At the end of the meal, we were served a beautiful stone topped with two soft apple jellies. As the waitress explained, these elastic flat candies slowly dissolve on your tongue releasing an intense apple flavour. I personally couldn't resist chewing onto them since jellies generally don't last very long in my mouth anyway.

I would highly recommend this place for a relaxing fine lunch in an airy, spacious and sober environment. The service was attentive, efficient and friendly.
Dining at Fifty Three is like a "spa" experience of gourmet.

53 Armenian Street
Tel: 6334 5535

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bucatini al sugo di maiale

I found bucatini on sale at Medi-Ya, Liang Court. The package was so attractive I couldn't resist from buying this delicacy pasta, which I haven't eaten for years! The other thing I bought was a burrata at the "Quattro Stagioni" Italian deli in front of Medi-ya. What a perfect combination!
Usually bucatini are served "all'amatriciana", which is a roman tomato based sauce with guanciale or pancetta tesa. Definition of Bucatini from Wikipedia: "Bucatini is a thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. The name comes from buco, meaning 'hole' in Italian, while bucato means 'pierced'. Bucatini is common throughout Lazio, particularly Rome".

In lack of the real thing, I made a tomato sauce with the following:
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Shallots
  • Streaky Bacon
  • Minced Pork
  • Broccoli
  • Basil
  • Meat stock (use a robust one such as veal, beef or lamb)
  • Parmesan
  • Burrata
  • Half a glass of red wine
This dish is all about the combination of the rustic ingredients and rich tomato sauce with this rough cut of pasta and the fresh burrata to finish.

The recipe is quite simple. Cut the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds and put them together with the peeled shallots on a baking tray and bake them for 40-60 mins at 180C until they are well reduced, as described in my gnocchi recipe. Pass them into a blender and chop into a chunky sauce.
Put some oil on a frying pan and fry the bacon, add the minced pork and when all the juices have dried out pour the red wine and let evaporate quickly. Add the stock and reduce to taste (depending on the intensity of the stock), together with the broccoli shredded into small pieces. Finally, add the tomato sauce and basil, salt as necessary and cook for a further 5 minutes or so.
Remove from the fire and let it rest while cooking the bucatini.

Once the bucatini are ready, stir well into the sauce and serve on a plate. Top with a bit of the sauce, grated Parmesan, a leaf of basil and finally a serving of fresh, chopped burrata. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sweet Spot

How exciting. Marina Bay Sands just opened its doors to the public and some of the new restaurants are already up and running. The hotel atrium hosts a couple of restaurants and this dessert shop.

I wasn't in the mood of having a whole dessert when I came across this place, so I only had a few macarons: salted caramel, matcha and nougat. The salted caramel and matcha macarons were very good indeed and I would rate them best than any others I have tried in Singapore so far. They have a distinct crispy, thin shell and soft core, just like the Pierre Herme' macarons I tried in Tokyo.

My only negative comment is the staff knowledge of the products, they were not able to tell which macaron was which and what flavors were available.
I will certainly be back to this place next weekend to try their awesome dessert creations!

Sweet Spot

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Les Amis - Lunch

Les Amis has been established in Singapore in 1994 and 15 years later it still retains its reputation as the best restaurant for fine dining, classic French food.
The architecture still feels fresh and modern despite not being new, and the high ceilings and sober and classy deco certainly have an impact as soon as you walk through the door. The service was extremely discreet, professional and attentive, definitely above Singapore standards.

I went for the lunch menu, priced at $60 for 3 courses including dessert. For $80 you get the chance to chose two appetizers. We were served this Spanish ham amouse bouche which set the tone to a high standard for the rest of the meal.

The crunchy spring vegetable salad was a classic French salad with vinaigrette and croƻton.

The smoked eel soup was incredibly good. Chunks of tender and juicy eel were served soaked into a warm soup with onions and garlic with a delicate smoky aroma. I would highly recommend this.

The crispy skin red snapper was topped by two potato ravioli on a bed of mushrooms soaked in a mushroom flavoured sauce. The strips of skin were outstandingly crispy.

The chicken with truffled potato puree was another classic dish which might not sound or look so exciting but yet it was so well executed that I could have it again any day.

The strawberry dessert with creme fraiche, sponge cake and a wafer thin chocolate decoration was perhaps not the type of dessert I would have normally chosen, but yet it was simple and delicious.

At the end of the meal we were served coffee, tea and a selection of canele and chocolates (matcha, black sesame and classic).

Overall I was very well impressed with Les Amis. I had always been wondering if its reputation was as fake as some other 'reputable' restaurants in Singapore (no need to quote names, I am sure you can count a few). From this one experience, the food seemed up to expectation. The only downside to the place is its price range, given that you are also paying for service and ambience. The final bill was S$160 for lunch for two, including a bottle of sparkling water. Dinner prices revolve around the S$200 mark per person.

Les Amis
1 Scotts Road
#02-16 Shaw Centre
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