Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jaan: a veritable temple of fine cuisine in Singapore

Jaan is another great French restaurant in Singapore. Once helmed by the great Andre Chiang, who now runs his own restaurant Andre, this temple of fine dining is perched on top of level 70 of Swissotel.

Magnificent views, needless to looking down into the Esplanade.

This was an event organized by The Hour Glass with independent watchmakers Urwerk...with principal Felix Baumgartner he is not the same Felix as the Austrian dare devil, but this Felix is just as adventurous with his watch designs. Here is a glimpse of some of his works.

We began with a very special amuse bouche..

The waiter described this as a mushroom tea with cep sabayon, walnuts and lovage...certainly a wonderful concoction...very delicious, with strong wild mushroom flavours permeating.

A salad Jaan calls the Heirloom Beetroot Composition was served next

At that point Felix joined our table, and we had a very interesting discussion on the watches and the new piece...the UR210...and I missed the waiter's attempt at describing the dish...suffice to say, it was lovely.

A most interesting egg dish was next presented...the 55 min Smoked Organic Egg

I believe the egg to be cooked sous vide, and done just was marvellous. It is hard to imagine an ingredient as humble as the common, and inexpensive chicken egg can be raised to levels of haut gastronomy...but it is. Served with wild autumn mushrooms and cherizo iberico.

If the meal ended there, I would have been very satisfied. But the chef continues to delight. The main course was a Tajima beef short rib

Cooked like a confit for 48 hours, and served with grenaille potatoes and horse radish. The meat was truly melt in your mouth tender. I didn't care much for the horseradish...scooping it aside so I can taste and savour the magnificence of the beef. The beef was sublime. Flavours burst in the mouth...the Tajima strain is a true full blooded wagyu, and the tender loving care of the Japanese farmers who raised the cattle can almost be felt through the was the awesome skill of the chef. Amazing beef.

Desserts was next

Caramelised William Pear with salted caramel, dark rum and nougatine. It was marvellous, of course, but I was still reeling with the taste of the beef ribs in my palate, I only noted that the dessert was good...

Certainly one of the best meals I have had in a while. Almost every component of the meal was excellent and the beef perfect...well...actually nearly would have been a perfect beef rib dish is it was somewhat larger...But certainly Jaan can lay claim to be one of the top French restaurants in Singapore.

Level 70, Equinox Complex,

Swissotel The Stamford
6837 3322

Monday, November 26, 2012

Au Petit Salut: another look...

Au Petit Salut is one of the kingpins of the local French culinary scene for a long time. I have reviewed this once before, and have eaten there many, many times...mostly very happy with the food and service. I recently went back for an event, and sampled their fare.

Nice place...sitting in a colonial bungalow, by the Dempsey area. Very nice, plentiful parking slots. Within, a charming ambience.

The evening was hosted by The Hour Glass and DeBethune, who makes some of the most interesting watches in the market. With a banquet of perhaps 30 pax, I was impressed with the swiftness of the service, and the quality of the cooking...but I am letting the cat out of the bag.

First the amuse...

Norweigian King crab, served cold with avocado puree, radishes and tomato espuma. Delectable. The crab was delicate, sweet flavoured. Nice.

A second starter of winter vegetable volute was then served

Tasted like a kind of pumpkin soup, rich creamy. The light taste of the pumpkin shone through the soup.

The main course was a 400 day grain fed Wagyu ribeye, sauteed mushrooms and pommes mouseline

I found my cut of the ribeye had a sinew running through it...and kind of spoils the experience for me. But otherwise, the meat was quite nice. Smooth, rich, almost creamy wagyu, cooked medium rare and seared outside. The mushrooms were very nice, as was the whipped potato.

For desserts, I had creme brule

Chocholate flavoured. This made the grade, but was nothing special. The chocholate a bit thick and heavy.

Other than the cut of beef which a bit off side for me...I did check with my friend who sat opposite me who also had the beef, and he declared his cut perfect, I think Au Petit manage to retain a position amongst the top French restaurants in Singapore.

40C Harding Road
6475 1976

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hairy Crabs at Putien and the Autumn Menu

Putien is a wonderful of my favourites. And Hairy Crabs is a delicacy specific to the season. Female crabs are best in October, and male hairy crabs best in November. And male crabs are more tasty.

I originally thought that the delicacy of hairy crabs are in the roe...thus the question...why do male crabs have roe? Interesting...and the man to explain this was Chef Billy Li.

Chef Li was articulate (in Mandarin), and passonate about his food, and was extremely happy to explain. Apparently two of the most famous lakes for hairy crabs are the Taihu and Yanghu. Taihu is upstream, so the water is purer. I asked if there was a difference in taste, and Chef Li said none. But there were fake Taihu crabs...some of the crabs have been caught elsewhere, but for 3 weeks are put in Taihu and labelled Taihu crabs.

Characteristics of the real hairy crab from Taihu are greenish black shell, yellow hair on the tips of the legs, a white belly and the tips of the legs are golden brown.

Each crab is approximately 210g (female crabs 180g each), and just plainly steamed.

The service staff peel the crabs for you...

And presented thus

Now the roe...actually, Chef Li explained the golden yellow stuff is not roe, but the fat. Apparently all summer the crabs feed on the plentiful food and get fat. Autumn is thus the best period to eat the crabs as they have had their full feed, and preparing for winter.

The yellow fat was extremely rich tasting, a bursting in the mouth...a full bodied mouthfeel. Aromatic, the texture was a bit like the yolk of a nicely poached egg, whilst the taste was more like a salted egg yolk without the salty sensation.

The body meat and legs were succulent and very tender. Wonderful. I never understood the appeal of hairy crabs until this tasting. Now I am a convert.

We also tasted the Putien Autumn menu...starting with the some braised soy beans with shitake

Very interesting dish. The soy is kind of a robust flavour, and the intriguing broth made by stewing pork bones and old hens stock in low heat is wonderful. Very wholesome.

Next, Red mushroom soup

Very interesting dish. Not really my favourite, but I certainly do appreciate how it is made. Red mushroom is used (seen beside the white tofu), and gives the broth the red hue. A pig's stomach is used, and filled with the ingredients to make tofu. The stomach then cooked at 80C and when ready to serve, the stomach is cut open to reveal the tofu inside, which is cut into tentacle like structures. The tofu is very delicate tasting.

Next we had the Claypot chestnut with pig tendons

Chestnut is braised with pig tendons. Beef tendons is common, but this must be one of the first time I have eaten pig tendons. Very good. The delicate flavour, with a chewy, springy texture. Full of collagen and goes very well with the chestnuts.

A boiling cauldron of tofu was next

With savoury crab roe, the home made tofu was silken, delicate, light and refreshing.

Braised pumpkin with mini shrimps

Very interesting. The pumpkin is deep fried to boost the flavour, and then steamed so the resulting texture is moist and fragrant. The tiny shrimps are fully grown, but very tiny....perhaps like krill, but pack some power. Very savoury sweet and powerful taste. Very nice.

As usual with Putien, their lumian is a must

Wonderful seafood stock with fresh seafood, crisp vegetables. Very nice.

And the simplest of desserts

Something so simple can bring so much pleasure. Served with a sweetened ginger tea (wonderful drink...I highly recommend a cup or two). Very nice.

A light tea was served throughout lunch...

Light, fragrant. This is tekuanyin, but green. Nice.

Once again, Putien does a wonderful Autumn menu. Worth a visit or two. Now I am looking forward to their Winter menu.

This is an invited review. Many thanks to Melissa Koh of Putien for the invitation.

127 Kitchener Road
6295 6358

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chums: nice cozy family oriented find in Bukit Timah

Beer chicken...not the typical dish in Singapore. I have eaten something similarly named in the US and Australia, but I was intrigued when my good friend told me about this off to Bukit Timah we went.

Quaint little place. Situated right by a row of restaurants...the original Pasta Fresca Salvatore, Cafe Roma, amongst a few others.

The kitchen is behind glass, and one can observe what the chef and his team is doing.

As a starter, we had a Nicoise salad

Interesting Nicoise..can't say I am raving about this, though it was tasty and good enough. The prawns were very tasty, intense flavour. The tuna mild, but still very present. The greens could have been a bit fresher, crunchier, though sufficies. The salad dressing was on the side, so we could indulge or not.

So I was hoping the chicken would fare better...

What a nice surprise! A beautifully roasted chicken, sitting on a stool of a beer can...I guess the heat of the oven would force the contents of the beer through the chicken, rendering it tender and giving a light flavour. A bed of crushed potatos and vegetables support the chicken.

Ahhh...the chicken was tender, juicy. Even the white meat was very tender and moist while still flavourful. The dark meat, as in the leg above was excellent. Very tender. Flavourful. The flavour of the beer seem to have lightly infuse itself into the meat, giving the meat somewhat like a herbal chicken kind of feel. The skin was perfect. There was little sensation of any fat...perhaps there wasn't...

The sauce was very very good...and brought up this chicken from good to excellent. Very tasty and savoury.

Excellent roast chicken. One whole chicken with the salad was enough for two hungry men...I would guess perhaps enough for a small family.

We had an unusual dessert

Sago with a strawberry sauce and vanilla ice cream. I must say the creativity is certainly interesting, and the martini glass was nice. Tastewise it was a delight.

Interesting small restaurant...very family oriented. Cool relaxed place to hang out. Recommended.

Royal Ville 833 Bukit Timah Road #01-06, Singapore 279887
Monday and Tuesday: 9am-5pm, Wednesday to Sunday: 9am-10pm

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Big Fish Bistro at East Coast

We are blessed in Singapore to have so many wonderful eateries to satisfy our tastebuds. And new ones pop up all the time. It is even more rewarding that some of the owners not only take the time and trouble with presenting great tasting food, but also fuss about the ambiencet and the service. But Big Fish takes this even one step further. It adds social responsibility of only serving sustainable food sources.

While I am not known to be an environmentalist, it is heartwarming to hear Patrick Terence Lim, co-owner of the Big Fish Bistro talk about consulting WWF to select sources of their seafood. About his staunch insistance on freshness, on service and of course great tasting food. It is not always that I see such passion in a restaurant owner. Most are dragged down by the chore and grind of running a restaurant. But Patrick was cheerful, informative and exudes passion.

Big Fish co-owner Patrick...expounding his passion for food, service and the environment.

I attended this session as the restaurant's guest, with my friend Melvyn.

Patrick and his partner bought over the restaurant earlier this year...the place has been in business for 7 years under the name Big Fish Seafood Grill Restaurant. They redecorated the place, it now has a bright, cheery and airy feel

We started with the ice tea...a very interesting concoction of tea: an ice blended tea with lemon juice and with bits of rind. Despite the milky look, it is milk free...and was very refreshing. The bits of lime provided some bite, though I hardly tasted the tea.

We first tried the house special fish and chips

Fairly large serving of two big battered fish on a bed of french fries. Patrick revealed that instead of the regular dory used in fish and chips, he uses red snapper.

So why not dory? Well, I hear from the grapevine (not from Patrick) that what is passed on as dory or sutchi which is sold frozen in supermarkets around the island is actually catfish from fish farms in Vietnam. Why catfish? Well they eat anything and everything, and grow very fast...equating to a very good yield. Any give a second thought to the fact that these fish slices are so large when you buy them frozen and when cooked yield only a small fillet?

Red snapper is, by far a superior fish. Sourced from a sustainable supplier, and fresh...the meat was tender, with a rich flavour which reminded me of the sea. The batter was very crisp. Very good fish and chips. Oh, the chips were excellent too.

We also had the spicy seafood ciopino

Ciopino is a kind of Italian fish/seafood stew. But Big Fish introduces an Asian twist. They add sambal to the tomato based broth. Thsi packs a bit of punch...I would have preferred a bit more...but I guess most patrons to a bistro would not be expecting firey fare, so its a good call by the chef. Having said that, the broth does have a kick. The ingredients are fresh. Prawns were large. Fish nicely cooked, and half a crayfish.

The piece de resistance was the day's Chef's Special. Grilled Parrot Fish served with smashed boiled potatoes and sautéed greens.

This is a beautiful specimen. Very fresh, with the characteristic blue and orange lower jaw.

The dish is only available when the chef can find fresh parrot fish that morning, and is cooked with its scales on. The scales and skin act as a natural pressure cooker. The skin and scales are removed on service by the waiter, but in this case the owner.

I found the fish a tad overcooked, but only a tad and this coming from one who preferred fish which is only cooked just so...just so that the edges of the bones are still almost rare. But this was not so far over that it was beyond redemption. Indeed, it was still very good. The flesh was mild, but very smooth, and had a mild hint of the sea, indicating freshness. The sauce was particularly the kichap manis with chilli my mother used to make for dipping her barbecued stingray, this was similar.

Overall, I would rate this dish very highly indeed. The fish was excellent, the sides were nicely done as well. Melvyn thought highly of the dish too, and he preferred to eat it without the sauce.

For desserts we had creme brule

Nice, but rather de rigueur.

And tiramisu without rum. The restaurant, while not halal, does take its meat from halal certified sources, and do not serve pork or alcohol in the food...though they offer alcohol as drinks. So this tiramisu is made without the aid of the punch provided by the booze.

So how does it taste? Very good. I would still have preferred some alcohol, but the tiramisu was mild though flavourful. One can taste the chocolate and espresso within. Melvyn thought it to be very good.

Big Fish also prides itself in a wide selection of interesting teas. We had this one clear, very light, cleansing tea...White Ginger Pomegranate from T-Salon in New York.

To be drunk sans milk or sugar, it provided a wonderful, very aromatic end to the meal.

Thanks to Partick Terence Lim for being the perfect host, and introducing a very interesting restaurant.

Big Fish Bistro
85 Upper East Coast Road

Monday, November 12, 2012

Nur Fah: Malay cuisine in Sembawang

Malay cuisine may not be as well developed as the Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian or Indian and Thai, but it certainly is a cornerstone in this part of the world. Definitive cooking in the traditional Malay style is often rather generic, but once in a while, a gem appears. This might be one of them.

This is a rather large meal...ahem...taken as a mid-day break on a 80km bicycle I guess it justifies the calories.

Where do I begin...ok, with the very large chicken drumsticks

I guess it might be because the Muslim rules require that meat be completely cooked, but I have always found the Malay meats tend to be a bit overcooked. I rather enjoy a toothy, chewy piece of meat as the next man, but tender is better, IMHO. This huge drumstick...looked like it might have come from a goose, but its chicken...was rather tender. True it was totally cooked to the blood or rare meat within, but it was tender. Coupled with the crisp batter. Nice.

The Telur Kichap (egg with sauce) is a mainstay in this style of cuisine

Nicely done. Nice crisp edges, almost luxurious, smothering sauce, with a kick provided by the chilli.

I usually have a pegedil or two...

Pegedil is a potato cutlet, often with mutton mixed into the potato, with spices and pan fried to a crisp. This was rather ok.

Though, when doused with the sambal belachan

Yowza! The chilli lifts the pegedil to another plane. Gone is the blandness and replaced with a rather exquisite body tampered with the uplifting chilli and lime. I think the sambal belachan is rather good. Side note: There is a recent Stomp article (citizen reporting) that the stall charges 30 cents for additional sambal. I am not sure if I was charged for the rather large serving we were given. But I guess its par for the course.

Another staple is sambal goreng

Tempeh (a fermented bean stick, sliced, fragrant, and very nutritious) with long beans and sambal. Nice.

The sayur lodeh is a standard offering in Malay cuisine too...

Good for its savoury, rich gravy. And the vegetables help balance the meat and protein.

Overall, a nice stall to visit. I wouldn't drive or go all the way to Sembawang to satisfy a Malay meal craving, but if I am in the area, this stall would beckon me.

Nur Fah Muslim Corner
1036 Sembawang Road

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Kim Kee Tanjung Rhu Wanton Mee

Kim Kee Wanton mee seems to be a hot favourite, judging by the long queues that form on the stall almost all day...till they finish their noodles.

A must visit for many, especially after or before sojourining onto TR Bikes, or on the way or back from ECP for their ride. This wanton mee used to be at the same coffee shop as the famous Tanjung Rhu Pau...famous for being delicious as well as being being very larger than a golf ball for their char siew pau.

But the wanton mee has moved just behind to the hawker centre, and still with the long queues. I once turned up at 1pm, and they sold out. So this time round, we arrived just before noon, and were rewarded with a short queue

Short queue or not, it was still a good 10 minutes waiting time.

So was it worth the wait? For me, only if you are in the area and craving for a WTM. They don't do anything wrong, the chilli is good and powerful. The noodles are done right, though I would have preferred a bit more al dente and springy. The char siew is quite dry and lean, though. The wanton are small, the skin is very light, the meat filling within was quite bland. Overall, it is an edible, Singapore style WTM...for me, by no stretch of imagination this WTM can lay claim to be best WTM in town. But it is rather above average to what can ge generally found in a typical hawker centre...taking the one at Farrer Road Market as a case in point...this Tanjung Rhu version is leaps and bounds better. But I think Eng's at Tj Katong is better...though that too has slipped a bit from its heyday.

Kim Kee Wanton Mee
Jalan Batu Market and Food Centre
4A Jalan Batu