Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gunther's



Attended the annual food bloggers lunch at Gunthers, the eponymous modern fine dining French restaurant helmed by Chef Gunther Hubrechsen, who trained under Chef Alain Passard at the 3 Michelin star L’Arpège in Paris and had a 5 year stint with Les Amis. Opened in August 2007, Gunthers has consistently garnered rave reviews from various media for its refreshing twist to classical French food.



Interior

The whole place isn't big actually, even more so the private dining room, which was slated to accomodate 24 of us. And because it was a long table, there wasn't much room to manoeuvre around which made it quite cramp (for me at least). Decor came across as simple and minimalist with dark wall tones and carefully placed spotlights - not so much the romantic ambience, but more for business.



Complimentary Bread

The complimentary bread tasted like normal baguette to me, just a little chewier on the inside. Nothing special.



Amuse Bouche

I didn't quite take to the amuse bouche, which was a slice of tomato drizzled with a vanilla bean foam served with fava beans and a slice of ciabatta. The foam and vanilla beans seemed more for decoration then anything else and the tomato taste overwhelmed.



Cold Angel Hair Pasta, Oscietra Caviar

One of Gunther's signature dishes, this was quite tasty but I would have preferred my pasta to be more al dente. The chopped chives and truffle oil gave it a smooth savoury taste coupled with a fragrant truffle aroma while the chilliness of the pasta contributed a nice refreshing sensation. Apparently this dish goes for $60 in the ala carte menu, but portions are definitely much much bigger.




Poached White Asparagus, Bouchot Mussels

White asparagus is essentially asparagus that comes from the process of etiolation, which is the deprivation of light. No chlorophyll can be produced without sunlight hence there is no green colouring in the plant. As such, it is slightly milder in flavour and a little more tender then normal green asparagus. I thought that Gunther's rendition of this vegetable was a little lacking. The single stalk of asparagus was poached until it became overly soft and mashy. The accompanying sauce was excellent though, with a hint of cinammon that went very well with the tiny morsels of seafood.



Grilled Cote de Boeuf, Japanese sweet-corn, sauce Bordelaise

The beef was done to a perfect medium rare with a nice slightly charred exterior that hinted strongly of salt. There was one small fault though. The red wine/vinegar reduction seemed a little too rushed, resulting in a lightly sour note as you chew on the meat. I liked the grilled sweet corn that came alongside. It provided a sweet refreshing punctuation in between intakes of beef.



Roasted Black Pig from Spain (Pata Negra)

The pork was a substitute for the Grilled Cote de Boeuf in case anyone didn't take beef. But that's not to say that this dish was lacklustre in comparison. On the contrary, this was one quality piece of meat from the Black Iberian Pig, which is known for its ability to accumulate fat under its skin and between the muscular fibres. Read. Exorbitant prices. Execution wise, I thought that the pork was evenly roasted to produce a tender yet succulent piece of meat that literally left me wanting for more. The only complaint I had was that the meat was overly salty.




Fine Apple Tart a la Dragées, Havana Rum Raisin Ice Cream

Apparently Gunther's signature dessert, the apple tart's crust reminded me of the crust found in the Chinese red bean paste pancake, save for the toppings of nuts on top. The stuffing of apple chunks weren't too soft but lacked the sourish aftertaste in my humble opinion. The rum and raisin ice cream was interesting but somehow I don't remember rum and raisin tasting anything like this, or am I just a die hard alcoholic?

As this was a special arrangement by Gunther's for this particular event, we were fortunate to have been able to try out so many dishes for $45 nett/pax. I would like to end off with a thank you to the organisers for the invite. Cheers.



Final Verdict:
Ambience:7/10
Service:7/10
Food:7.5/10
Value for money:NA
Overall:7.16/10

Address: 36 Purvis Street, #01-03

Contact: 63388955

Opening Hours:

Monday to Saturday - 12pm to 3pm

Monday to Sunday - 630pm to 1030pm

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



Chef Gunther

Monday, May 25, 2009

Diandin Leluk



Diandin Leluk, the well known budget Thai restaurant at Golden Mile and owner of the Tuk Tuk Thai Kitchen chain, recently opened up a new upmarket branch around my area so thought it would be good to give it a shot.



Exterior & Interior

Taking over the space vacated by a chicken rice stall just next to Sushi Tei, Diandin boasts two levels of seating in a brightly lighted comfortable looking interior with heavy wooden chairs and tables. Nice place for casual family dinners or gatherings.



Pork Beancurd Soup

I quite fancied this soup as it came across as light yet tasty from the addition of tong cai. There were balls of prawn paste peppered with bits of meat and steamed egg tofu in it. Very traditional Teochew styled soup.



Pandan Chicken

This was one of the better pandan chickens that I've eaten as it wasn't too oily or cloyingly sweet. The meat was tender and fibrous and of quite a sizeable chunk.



Stir Fried Broccoli with Scallops

A very simple dish and decently executed one at that. The broccoli wasn't overcooked while the thin silvers of scallop didn't carry the fishy aftertaste. However, I thought that the gravy was a little too bland for my liking. But on the upside, at least it wasn't too starchy.



Pineapple Fried Rice

A most mundane rendition of this Thai favourite. There were lots of meat floss, a few slices of shrimp, dried sausages and raisins but lacked the pineapple twang as well as the fragrance. Decent but I've definitely had better.



Phad Thai

The phad thai was of the dryer variant which I personally prefer and the noodles had a nice springy texture. It didn't come across as overly sweet as well and you had a choice of drowning the noodles in grounded peanuts, which I did. Pity about the small portions.



Durian Glutinous Rice

This dessert looked different from others that I've eaten elsewhere. The rice was seperated from the durian (which was real durian meat, not puree) and looked a total mess. Aesthetics aside, the durian was sweet while the glutinous rice wasn't overwhelmed by coconut milk. I did think that the rice was a little undercooked though because it came across as a little hard.



Bill

For a relatively satisfying dinner for 3, the bill came up to almost $58, which still falls within the reasonable range I guess. Food quality is decent but service could probably buck up a little. There were a few wait staff standing around but it was difficult to get their attention.



Final Verdict:
Ambience:7/10
Service:6/10
Food:7/10
Value for money:7/10
Overall:6.75/10

Address: 68/68A Serangoon Garden Way

Contact: 62866768

Opening Hours: 11am to 10pm daily

Website: http://www.diandinleluk.com

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wo Peng



After the shocking mother's day lunch at Si Chuan Dou Hua the previous year, it was decided to head somewhere more low key and down to earth this year. May I just make it known that I still think occasions like mothers day/fathers day etc are just ploys by unscrupulous merchants to jack up their prices and serve you substandard food. But here we were, at Wo Peng, for a mother's day dinner. Apparently the chef, Hong Kong born Julian Tam, used to preside over the kitchen at Furama Palace at Furama Hotel and left to work in Guangzhou for a couple of months before returning to Singapore to open up his own restaurant.



Interior

The place is easy to miss, occupying just 2 units along Macpherson Road, where parking is a nightmare. The restaurant itself isn't big, probably squeezing in 50 pax or so and everything is kept no frills, from the tables and chairs to the ornaments that decorate the walls.



Shark's Fin Soup

If you are a fan of adding vinegar with your shark's fin soup, the staff at Wo Peng will advise you not to because according to them, the soup is naturally flavoured by herbs and don't require any addition of vinegar. I must conceed that they are absolutely right. The soup had cordyceps, ginseng and other unidentifiable (by me) herbs that made it light yet tasty with a mild herbal connotation. The fins weren't exactly of superior quality but acceptable nonetheless.



Smoked Duck

I simply love this dish. It has got to be one of the best duck dishes I've eaten since the start of 2009. The skin was crisp while the meat was smoked to a reddish hue and came across as very smooth and tender. There wasn't an overly generous salt content as well and tasted a little like ham. Nice!



Stir Fried Red Garoupa with Sweet Pea

This dish was rather normal though the fish was rather fresh and served up with dried mustard greens (梅菜), which gave it a salty tinge. I did like the sweet peas though, which were sweet (duh!), crunchy and not overly cooked.



Steamed Garoupa

This was actually a continuation of the the first fish dish, where the fish head was chopped up and steamed with pork slices, black fungus and red dates. Personally I preferred to the former as the whole dish was actually more savoury. But being only fish head, the meat was limited.



Peng Cai

This dish is usually sold and eaten only during the Chinese New Year period. But here at Wo Peng, its available throughout the year but only with an advance order of course. There were the usual suspects - dried oyster, prawns, mushrooms, broccoli, goose web, scallops, dried abalone, sea cucumber and surprisingly, radish, which is said to be found only in authentic HK peng cais. Although I am no fan of peng cai, I thought that this one was quite well done as the whole thing was stewed long enough for the flavours to permeate through to the various ingredients. And may I add that portions were huge for 5 people. 6-7 would have been a more manageable number.



Fried Noodles

The noodles were a thicker variant of mee suah and came across as soft but not too soggy. It was tasty and came loaded with lots of seafood but it got really nauseating after a while and I gave up after my 2nd bowl. This is the first time I'm feeling so overwhelmed by the amount of seafood thus far.



Roast Chicken

Finally a white meat dish and I thought that it was actually quite good. The meat was tender while retaining its flavours and moisture. The skin was a nice homogeneous golden brown but a pity it wasn't crisp.



Hasma

Also known as the poor men's bird nest, the Hasma came with dried longans and dates and tasted like hot cheng ting. To be honest, I am absolutely terrified of this dessert as it is made from dried fallopian tubes of frogs and somehow, ingesting an organ that plays a pivotal role in reproduction doesn't exactly settle well with me.



Bill

A satisfying, if not button bursting dinner cost the 5 of us to the tune of $350, which works out to be roughly $70 a head. Reasonable if you ask me, especially for the quality and quantity of food. Moreover, ingredients like shark's fin, abalone, sea cucumber etc don't come cheap. Service was great and even more commendable in the absence of any service charge.



Final Verdict:
Ambience:6.5/10
Service:7.5/10
Food:7.5/10
Value for money:7/10
Overall:7.125/10

Address: 476 MacPherson Road

Contact: 6747-9892

Opening Hours: Daily, 11.30am to 3pm, 6.30 to 11pm

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fi53fty Three



53 - the newly opened dining collaboration between lawyer turned chef, Michael Han and the Les Amis group. Chef Han, who trained at the prestigious Fat Duck in England, brought along Fat Duck's 2nd pastry chef, Leoandro, to helm 53's pastry department. What makes this restaurant stand out is that there is no ala carte menu, which means the chef decides, to a certain extent, what you eat.




Interior & Menu

Aptly located at 53 Armenian Street, the restaurant is situated in a double story shophouse with the private dining room and kitchen located on the first level and the main dining hall and wine cellar on the second. The place is tiny and sparsely furnished with simple tables and chairs and the main dining area can probably only accommodate about 5 tables for a total capacity of 20. Hence reservations are of utmost importance. Try making them at least 2 weeks in advance.



Iced Water

I thought that the sky juice (no still or sparkling nonsense) deserved a mention because the serving jug has a piece of charcoal in it, which is said to remove the harmful particles in water and allow good minerals that are essential to the body to pass through. Reminds me of charcoal tablets.



Potato Crisps

A most interesting appetiser, the potato crisps were served on a charcoal holding stand and dusted with vinegar. The crisps were, well, crisp and not too dry with a light sourish hint of vinegar. Great way to start off.




Complimentary Bread

The complimentary buckwheat (from Manitoba, Canada) bread came served in a sack that promised to keep the bread warm for 20 minutes. The secret lies at the bottom of the sack, which contains pebbles that are heated before the bread is served and dissipates heat to keep the bread warm. Ingenious! The bread looked like a muffin but outside was hard while inside was rather spongy. Served alongside was a dish of buttermilk butter that was sprinkled with buckwheat. Very nice!



Air Cured Wagyu and Hibiscus, Beetroot and Apple

I thought the pairing of cured wagyu and beetroot was rather interesting, if outlandish. 53 proved me wrong though. The wagyu had a nice salty tinge to it while the beetroot gave it a mild sweetness. Nice subtle contrast. The beetroot sorbet added an almost surreal chilling dimension to the dish. Mind boggling!



Scallop and Buckwheat, Chicken "Oysters" (+$10)

I'm guessing the chicken pieces look like oyster hence the name? And they were probably the best chicken pieces I've eaten in a long long time. They were extremely tender and tasty but the less then generous portions kept my cravings in check. The scallops were seared to perfection with the right texture and came across as very flavourful as well.



Beef Cheeks and Onion, Pearl Barley and Watercress

This dish was a little of a let down. I couldn't quite make out any inherent beefy taste and the beef cheek was all shredded and almost pulp like. It was just salty with a little sweetness, probably from the barley. A nausea inducing dish.



Barramundi, Blackberries and Green Beans

The fish was freshly sweet with the skin nicely crisp but a tad salty. I am guessing the extra salt is useful and delightful in contrasting the sweetness from the blackberry and pear jam thats smeared alongside. And the whole dish was topped with a slice of amazingly thin Ciabatta that rendered me speechless.




Szechuan Peppercorn Ice Cream, Roasted Figs and Olive Puree

I've never been a fan of figs but this one was surprisingly acceptable to me (I only managed to finish 1 slice though). What was interesting was the ice cream, which came across as very "perfumy" so to speak with a mild numbing sensation from the szechuan peppercorn. The little black speckles atop were actually olive sprinkles that gave it a light savoury taste. Very interesting combination.




Chocolate Caramel, Enoki and Raspberries

Another interesting piece of dessert. The chocolate caramel was gooey and came with enoki mushrooms which surprisingly accentuated the taste of the caramel. Dried raspberry cubes by the side complemented the dash of peanut butter very well and was almost reminiscent of the peanuts in a peanut butter spread. And to top everything off, there was the raspberry sorbet for a sourish and chilled finish.



Apple Risotto and Rosemary

Tiny cubes of apple cooked the risotto way, with constant adding of apple juice - that's how this dessert was made. I thought that it was nice and mildly sweet with a subtle lingering taste of ginger. The risotto texture was crunchy and the rosemary foam was light as air and hinted of rosemary. Interesting to say the least.



Petit Fours

The perfect Gin and Tonic sweet is what 53 calls its petit fours and rightly so. How the sweet works is this. You place it on your tongue and let it slowly dissolve to release the gin tonic taste. When you decide that its too strong for you, just wash it away with water. Quite a novelty I must say.



White Tea



Bill

It was without a doubt, a most excellent lunch that definitely warrants revisits, especially for dinner. But prices are steep, with lunch costing the 2 of us just over $140 and that's with 2 pots of complimentary tea that would have gone for $12++ a pot from the menu. Quality of food is top notch and so is service. And there is an air of exclusivity around it as tables are limited.



Final Verdict:
Ambience:7/10
Service:8.5/10
Food:8/10
Value for money:6.5/10
Overall:7.5/10

Address: 53 Armenian Street

Contact: 63345535

Opening Hours:

Lunch: 12noon - 2pm (Tue-Sat)

Dinner: 7pm - 9.30pm (Mon-Sat)

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

And we decided to take a shot of the culinary geniuses behind the restaurant. Chef Michael Han wasn't in town, so we had to settle for his talented pastry chef ;)



Chef Leandro