Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jewels Artisan Chocolate - Mooncakes 2011

Following up from my favourite mooncakes from last year, this year I got another box of Jewels mooncakes. Out of the ones I tried, Jewels snowskin mooncakes are the only ones that compete with the ones from the Raffles (and that's not by chance, since it's the same hands behind them), except I actually prefer the Jewels selection of flavours.

Luckily, the flavours haven't really changed from last year, since their selection has been largely appreciated, except from a new signature flavour: the Korean Black Garlic. Chef Then Chui Foong has been playing with this ingredient in combination with chocolate for quite some time now. In particular, I thought that her Korean black garlic ice cream was innovative and delicious. I bet she has been waiting for months for the mooncakes season, to come up with her ultimate black garlic creation. The fermented clove of black garlic placed in the middle of the mooncake releases a deep, licorice like flavour with a smooth tone of acidity. It is quite a unique taste with a tinge of garlic flavour, but extremely tamed, without the pungent, aggressive aspects of regular garlic. A must try!

My second favourite remains the salted caramel truffle. I like the combination of the gentle saltiness of Palm Island sea salt with the crunchy winter melon seeds.

The dark chocolate crunchy pearl mooncakes are quite familiar to many, since they are also sold by the Raffles Hotel. This mooncake will be appreciated by those who love chocolate, mint, and a bit of crunch. Really something quite different from the other classic truffle mooncakes, the mint-chocolate combination reminds me of the classic "After Eight" thin chocolates!

Besides the Espresso truffle flavour, there is also a Champagne truffle mooncake on the menu, which is the all time favourite for most and Jewel's one is outstanding. After all, I am such a big fan of their Perle Noir chocolate, which is basically made from the same Champagne truffle you would find inside the mooncake, surrounded by crunchy pearls!

I got bitten so many times by sloppy snowskin mooncakes that nowadays I can hardly trust buying them from random places, and Jewels remains on top of my list.

Website: http://www.jewels.com.sg/

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bucatini al cinghiale e burrata

Excited about the long awaited burrata I received yesterday, I thought of repeating something similar to the pasta I improvised some time ago and I liked so much to still remember over it a year later. I didn't go shopping in the morning, so I decided to make do with whatever I had in the fridge from last week. I still had some wild boar salami leftover from my last trip in Tuscany, so I thought of putting it to good use.

These are the ingredients I dug out of my fridge to make this pasta:
  • A slice of smoked guanciale
  • 3 slices of Tuscan wild boar salami
  • 3 tinned plum tomatoes
  • Half a piece of celery
  • Half a carrot
  • 3 spring onions (white part only)
  • Many sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 small burrata
  • 100ml chicken stock 
  • Red wine 
  • Sugar and salt to taste 
The preparation is very simple. Dice the guanciale and the wild boar salami (of course, you can use normal pork salami as wild boar cannot easily be found in Singapore).

Chop very finely the carrot spring onions (I used spring onions as that's what I had in the fridge, but onions or leeks will be equally good), and celery.

I was pretty excited to open the box of this mini burrata, produced in Puglia by Centro Latte Stasi.

I love this moment, cutting through the outer "sack" of the burrata, watching the cream leaking out first, followed by oozing clots of burrata. beautiful. Of course, I couldn't resist from having some of this before finishing my pasta. I wouldn't put all of it on the bucatini anyway.

Start off by frying the guanciale in olive oil, and once well browned, add the carrots, celery and spring onions.

Add a splash of red wine (a third of a glass) and quickly let evaporate on high heat. Once well evaporated, add the chicken stock, and simmer over medium heat.

Once the chicken stock is half absorbed, add about 3 whole canned plum tomatoes and chop them directly in the sauce while stirring. Keep reducing over low heat and add salt and a small pinch of sugar should the tomato be excessively sour. Keep adjusting as you go.

In the meantime, boil some water in a large pot, salt it and add the bucatini. They usually take 10-12 minutes to cook. Continue to cook the sauce, and after about 8 minutes from adding the tomatoes, add a few sprigs of thyme and if necessary top up the sauce with some of the boiling water from the pasta pot in order to prevent it from drying out. Let the thyme release its flavour into the sauce over low heat.

Drain the bucatini once ready, then toss into the sauce pan and serve into serving bowls. Top up with some fresh burrata cheese, grated black pepper, and a drizzle of real extra virgin olive oil (proper strong, full flavour. I used a Sicilian one here, which is sold at Gattopardo). Garnish with fresh thyme.

I was captured by the intense flavour of this pasta, which will definitely be a repeat. The gaminess from the wild boar was balanced by the chunks of creamy burrata, and the thyme flavour added a touch of freshness to the whole dish. And once again, I ate too much...

Monday, August 22, 2011

L'Atelier de Robuchon

This is one restaurant that recently opened in Resort World Sentosa and is little known in Singapore outside of the foodies circle, primarily due to its segregated location. Odd enough, the Singapore branch of this renowned fine dining chain of restaurants, is not even mentioned on the official website (as of the date of publishing of this post).

Without a doubt, as you walk through the door you are overwhelmed by the sophistication of the ambiance. An unique combination of black and strong red dominates the restaurant throughout. The lighting is extremely dim, but well thought spotlights point in all the right places (most importantly, right on your on plate!) to create a very suggestive ambiance.

The vivid colors displayed in front of the kitchen are the result of a display of stacks of fresh produce such as carrots, apples or tomatoes. Behind, the busy and dynamic kitchen is fully in view for the diners, who sit around a semi-circular counter. The open kitchen-bar concept is fundamental to the attractiveness and the success of this restaurant. Watching the Chefs at work is entertaining for the diners impatient to know what's going to be next on their plate.

As we sat down, we were served a beautiful basket of assorted fresh bread and while munching on it, we took our time to decide what to order from the menu. They offer a selection of about 20 "small dishes", 8 appetizers and 7 mains. The waiter recommended about 4 small dishes each, but we had about 3 to share and a main each and that was definitely filling enough for us.

They started off with an amuse bouche of foie gras mousse and Parmesan. Decadent, sophisticated, delicious.

I was really impressed by the Grilled seasonal vegetable with a touch of wasabi (S$29). I would have never thought a vegetarian dish could be so addictive, to the point that I would order it again on my next visit.

Even more impressive, I shall say unforgettable, this Yellowtail tuna tartar with spicy tomato sauce(S$29).

I am looking forward to visit L'Atelier again to get to taste once more their Milk fed pig, roasted on the spit with braised green cabbage and fresh ginger (S$45). This is their signature dish, and it's amazing how this succulent, juicy pork is perfectly complemented by the flavour of ginger.

The Foie gras filled free-range quail with mashed potatoes (S$53) was also well executed. A quail stuffed with foie gras, accompanies by very butter rich mashed potatoes. I enjoyed the dish, although after trying the pork, this was eclipsed by it.

I didn't get too excited by the Lamb fillet served with spiced eggplant (S$45). The seasoning reminded me of Mexican food (there was a dominant cumin flavour), and the dish just wasn't as exciting as everything else we had.

I have much better things to say about the Marinated anchovies with eggplant confit (S$27). Beautifully presented, the highlight of this dish was that the fresh sardines (don't think of the tinned stuff!) revealed that "sea" flavour which is characteristic of anchovies, sardines and mackerel. This is not a flavour that is commonly found in Singapore, since it's typical of fish from the Mediterranean.

The dessert we chose was chocolate based: Caribbean, hazelnut dacquoise, thin Orizaba chocolate leaves (S$23). An enjoyable, indulgent composition of ice cream, chocolate thins, and a rich chocolate ganache.

In conclusion, l'Atelier de Robuchon was a fantastic experience, which perhaps doesn't come cheap, but when compared to other similar restaurants marketed at a similar level, is worth every penny.

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Website: RWSentosa - L'Atelier de Robuchon

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Anar is unfortunately CLOSED.

Lebanese remains one of my favourites cuisines, and I have not been having much of it ever since I moved to Singapore. I have been missing the days of eating Lebanese daily, when I used to work on the King's Road in London, lunching at "Al Dar II", one of my favourite Lebanese Cafe's. Their sandwiches are some of the best you can have in London. Back to Singapore, ever since Sanobar closed, there hasn't really been much choice for middle eastern food. During my stay in Sentosa, I thought of trying Anar, a new Arabic restaurant located in Sentosa Resorts World.

The building, like all of the new builds on the island, has clearly been thought with the exact concept in mind. The inside is fully decorated in Arabic style, and it looks spacious and sumptuous. High ceilings, plenty of space in between tables, large chairs, beautifully intricate carpets and textiles all round.

And I must say that at Anar, they really started on the right gear by serving some freshly made bread. The tandoor oven is located right in the dining room, so you can watch the Chef at work.

The bread was absolutely fragrant, hot and crispy, with sesame seeds sprinkled on top. It really reminds you of a pizza without condiments, and after all, the middle east is where Italian pizza came from in the first place, it is where all the best flat breads originated! We were not yet served the dips, and we had already devoured a whole basket of this delicacy bread, so we ordered an extra basket for just S$2.00.

I can't really put any Arab restaurant to test without trying their dips. My favoutites are Hommous and Moutabal. Anar serves a hommous with minced beef (S$14.00). This was without a doubt the best hommous I had in Singapore, and it strongly reminded me of what I used to have back in London. A world apart from those amateurish hommous with either a strong garlic taste, or too much sesame paste, this was absolutely smooth and well balanced. A delicacy for the palate, topped by tasty olive oil.

The moutabal (S$12.00) was no less. The smokiness of the aubergines was just right, and it was incredibly light and fluffy, still retaining some grainy texture. I could have had a whole platter of this on my own! I wish I could do this myself, exactly like I had at Anar, and I was so inspired I will definitely give it a try.

As Italian as I am, I love parsley, and this herb is something we have in common with the Arabic culinary culture. Tabouleh (S$9.00) is the ideal dish for parsley lovers like me. This mountain of finely chopped parsley with diced tomatoes, delicately seasoned with lemon juice was a fresher complement to the bread than the other two dips.

Finally, the lamb. I opted for the rack (S$45) rather than the minced lamb, and I asked for it to be served without rice, as I already had an industrial quantity of bread. The saffron seasoning was so generous you could taste the beauty of this spice throughout these juicy ribs. This was really a no frills lamb at its best, and with those roasted onions and tomatoes, it reminded me of the Iranian food I used to have near earl's Court, back in London.

The total bill was S$153.00, which is not cheap, but not too unreasonable for RWS. It is unfortunate that we don't have more informal Lebanese cafes that serve this sort of food in Singapore, and after all sporadic attempts such as Sanobar have not succeeded. I will try Kazbar next, in the hope for a similar level of food at a cheaper price, but in the meantime it's reassuring to know that such food can be found somewhere near this island.

Link: http://www.rwsentosa.com/language/en-US/ShoppingDining/Dining/DiningAnarRestaurant
Phone: +65 6884 6989

Friday, August 12, 2011


This was perhaps the most awaited restaurant in Singapore, and the first few months after its opening have been so booked up that it was hard to get a table if not very long in advance. It has now been sufficient time to make a booking without too much hassle, and I finally got to try the food, although just for lunch. The 5 course lunch menu is priced $128++ per person, which makes it more accessible than the dinner offering if you just want to have a taste of the food.

The setting is minimalistic and sober, just like the presentation of André's dishes. We were accompanied to our table, located on the upper floor. The lower floor seemed to be closed for lunchtime. The dining room is spacious, divided into two areas, one of which overlooks the courtyard and the olive tree that stands out in the middle of it.

The menu was printed onto semi-opaque sheets, which were placed on the table like mini table cloths. We were served an amouse bouche of crispies flavoured with onion and porcini mushrooms. It felt like having a "French onion soup" crystallized onto these crispy textures. An interesting start.

The starter was a "decomposed salad" of tomatoes and smoked salmon. Everything on the plate was of good quality, although this dish failed to impress me. It was a refreshing starter, but it lacked of that extra something to make sense of it all. Perhaps that something was meant to be the basil flower sorbet, but I didn't quite get it.

Next was a sharp and clean kaffir lime consommé with a pan seared scallop, cured fish and mini baby leek ravioli. Everything was really mignon in this dish, visually exciting, but despite the homeopathic portions you could clearly taste all the different components and they all worked really well in combination.

Next, the foie gras mousse with black truffle. It seemed like every dish that we were served was more exciting, in a crescendo of flavour. I am not a huge foie gras fan, not that I don't like it, but because it tends to become a bit monotonous. Whenever a menu wants to look expensive, it seems that it must include pan fried foie gras paired with some fruit or jam. But this dish was really something different. The pairing of two delicacies such as foie gras and truffle, striking the right balance between the two aromas, lightening up the richness of the foie gras in a custard-like texture. This little bowl was packed with seductive flavour.

I was at that point eager to get onto the main course, as the meal kept getting more interesting at every subsequent dish. And I must say that the short ribs didn't fail to exceed my expectations. The sous-vide short rib was incredibly tender, juicy, rich of thin layers of fat, and incredibly flavoursome. Eating that just makes me wonder "why doesn't mine taste like this?". But the polenta bianca with wild mushrooms was not any less impressive. It was rich and packed with mushroom aromas, a bit runny, unlike classic polenta. I found this really inspiring, and I think I will soon open a pack of polenta bianca which I have been keeping in storage for the last 3 months or so. This is a dish I would come back for, and I would be happy to have it exactly the same.

I was always impressed by André's desserts when he used to work at Jaan. Thje indication on the menu that we would end up with a concert of chocolate got me excited. I couldn't reconcile what was on the plate with the description on the menu: "Tarte au chocolat" with milk pudding and ice cream "Milk marmalade". However, this was exactly the kind of dessert I was hoping for! The chocolate ball was only tepid outside, but once squashed, it oozed out a beautifully warm chocolate ganache. I enjoyed biting into that squishy textured shell while warm, rich chocolate kept oozing out! I loved the pairing of ice cream with crunchy cocoa nibble-like sand. I am never impressed by light sponges, which are so popular in modern desserts, but I did like the caramel jelly that came on top of it.

André didn't fail to meet expectations, and although meals at his restaurant don't come cheap, you are guaranteed one of the best dining experiences you can possibly have in Singapore. Every detail is taken care of with real passion, from the very moment you approach the restaurant: visual, comfort, service, and of course, food.

Website: http://restaurantandre.com

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pici al guanciale

Nostalgic of the flavours of Tuscany, I was inspired by perhaps the most memorable dish of my last vacation there. I have previously reviewed Osteria Le Logge, and their amazing spaghetti with guanciale. Conscious of the fact that reproducing such flavours without the exact ingredients would be impossible, I aimed at creating a simple pasta dish with a classic Tuscan flavour.

I combined three types of onions: leek and shallots to sweeten the sauce and fresh chives to give it a bit of a zest (the thin, western type, not the Chinese chives). I combined those with some guanciale and Tuscan pecorino cheese to give the sauce body and flavour, and some local kai lan to add some green aspect to the dish and give it that tad of bitterness.

I still had a pack of pici that I bought in Tuscany, so instead of making them myself, I used the pre-packaged ones, missing some of the fun. I still prefer handmade pici, as I like them irregular in shape and thickness. This is a rustic pasta, and it's not supposed to be perfect!

I sliced the leek in fairly thick slices, then the shallots in thin strips and finally the chopped the chives very finely. I roughly cut the guanciale in 1-2 cm pieces, and detached the leaves from the kai lan, discarding the stems.

After frying the guanciale for a couple of minutes in extra virgin olive oil, I added the shallots and leek and browned them. I then removed the leek and set it aside, to maintain it slightly undercooked and also to use it for later decoration on top of the pasta. I added about 100ml of chicken stock and reduced it with the rest of the ingredients, while the pici were boiling in salted water.

Once the pici were ready, I tossed the kai lan leaves and half of the chives into the sauce, added the pici and sauteed them all together for about 30 seconds.

I then arranged the pici into solid olive wood bowls, and topped them with the leeks, the remaining chives, some grated pecorino cheese, freshly ground pink, white and black pepper, and a drizzle of Tuscan extra virgin olive oil.

The quality Tuscan olive oil brought together this dish with its earthy, green flavours. I want Tuscany, all over again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Brasserie Wolf - Revisited

Brasserie wolf has been getting more attention recently, since they have recently changed their Chef, so I decided to pay them a visit together with some fellow foodies. We went for a Saturday lunch, just to have a taste of their food style.

The lunch set menu gives you a choice of 3 appetisers and 3 mains, and it's priced at $39.90 with dessert, or $31.90 without. Some of the menu choices looked promising, and among the 4 of us we managed more or less to get a taster of the full range of dishes.

The homemade rabbit and chicken terrine was tasty, and I would rate it as the best dish we had in the whole meal.

Less impressive was the white asparagus velouté.

I quite liked the pan fried Malabar, which was served with a smooth, creamy sauce, and some ikura as a decoration.

The Wagyu beef rump was a bit of a disaster. If that was Wagyu, then it must have been some very special Wagyu. The meat chunks were lean, dry and chewy. Even the sauce failed to savage the dish. All 4 of us were quite disappointed.

My Chestnut cream spaghetti was not bad, although it didn't look like spaghetti. The chestnut pureé tasted great, except it was spoiled by the cheap taste of the chocolate sauce. Had the sauce been a real chocolate sauce, this dessert would have been fantastic.

Overall there were hits and misses and I was not impressed by Brasserie Wolf. They did get certain things right, but they just couldn't pull the meal together to the level of quality which you can find at many other similar restaurants in the same price range in Singapore.

Brasserie Wolf
Website: http://www.esmirada.com/brasserie-wolf/brasserie-wolf.html
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