Monday, June 29, 2009

Absinthe



Absinthe - a green alcoholic spirit which was more commonly known as the green fairy because of its purported hallucinogenic effects. It also happens to be the name of upmarket French restaurant jointly owned by the folks from OSO, restaurant manager Philippe Pau and chef Francois Mermilliod of Flutes at the Fort fame.




Exterior, Interior & Menu

Sitting pretty at the end of a row of shophouses along Bukit Pasoh Road and playing immediate neighbour to OSO, Absinthe's green signboard, which is a nod to the greenish colour of the alcohol, greets you from a distance. The swanky interior boasts low ceilings and parquet flooring coupled with ambient ceiling lighting for a relaxing dining experience.



Complimentary Bread

When the first round of complimentary bread hit us, it was actually quite good. Crusty on the outside while retaining its softness and fluffiness on the inside. The second serving was akin to eating stones so I promptly gave up after a few mouthfuls.




Stuff that weren't part of my degustation



Chilled Ravioli of Lobster with Lime Sabayon, Pink Guava Julienne and Shiso

Very interesting to say the least. This wasn't your typical ravioli. The skin was reminiscent of har gao and there were crunchy strands of guava nestled below it on a bed of fresh Boston lobster. The presence of fish roe gave it a nice salty taste while the lime sabayon was savoury with a hint of tartness. Very nice.



Pan-Fried Foie Gras with Warm Blinis and Wild Hibiscus Flower Compote

I thought that the foie gras was excellent. On par with what I had at Sage, if not better by a notch or two. Very well pan fried to a crisp on the outside yet melt in the mouth quivery on the inside with a hint of saltiness. The hibiscus flower compote provided a nice sourish dimension to the foie gras.



Hokkaido Scallop With Sea Urchin Emulsion and Small Herb Salad

Scallops never fail to entice me and Absinthe's rendition came with sea urchin emulsion, which was a first for me. The scallops were done tataki style, well seared on the outside but soft and relatively rare on the inside, which is a refreshing change from the usual seared scallops. I could make out a hint of fishiness amongst the predominantly salty emulsion. Overall another excellent dish.



Pork Belly

The pork belly was a special of the day and I requested this as my main instead of the lamb/fish option for my degustation and I am glad I did. The skin was very crispy, the fats were sinfully melt in your mouth and the meat fibrous with a generous dose of salt. And being pork belly, the ratio of fats to meat is a lot higher then other parts of the pig. Definitely not for the health conscious or faint hearted.



Crème Brûlée, Absinthe Sorbet

Apparently some of the ice parfaits didn't make it past the QC test that evening so I had a choice of crème brûlée instead. I wasn't too impressed by it though. The caramel layer was a little too overtorched, resulting in a rather burnt layer. On the upside, it was milky smooth with raisins in it. What I thought was interesting was the absinthe sorbet, which I had mistaken as lime sorbet at first sight. The sorbet had a very weak absinthe dosage, coming across more like liqurious with its herbal overtones.



Petits Fours

I thought I used to see these packs of valhorna chocolates being served with hot milk but guess its just eaten straight out of the packet at Absinthe.

The degustation cost $98++ but because I requested to change my main to the pork belly, it cost me another $6++, bringing the total to $122.41 nett. Sure it isn't cheap, but the excellent quality of food and service more then makes up for it. I will definitely be back, but this time I'm aiming the private dining room for 4pax within the wine cellar.



Final Verdict:
Ambience:7.5/10
Service:8/10
Food:8/10
Value for money:7/10
Overall:7.625/10

Address: 48 Bukit Pasoh Road

Contact: 6222 9068

Opening Hours:

Mon-Fri: 12pm-2.30pm, 6.30pm-10.30pm

Sat: 6.30pm-10.30pm

(Closed on Sun)

Website: http://www.absinthe.sg

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Singapore-Singapore/Absinthe/56794462597?ref=mf

Thanks to everyone for attending!



Check out the happy hands at our table

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chinese Box



I've always meant to try out Chinese Box, a Chinese restaurant owned and operated by the same folks who holds the rights to Black Angus in Singapore. So when an opportunity to try out their food came knocking, I jumped at it.




Interior

Opened in January this year, Chinese Box is hidden in the far reaches of the NUS law campus at Cluny Road. Getting there can be quite a headache as there are no clear signs as to how to reach the restaurant even within the compounds of the school itself. Housed on the first level of an old restored colonial bungalow (Black Angus takes the second level), Chinese Box boasts a classical chinese interior with a dash of colonial grandeur. Think white washed pillars, overhanging oriental lamps and and red translucent curtains.



Soft Shell Crab Roll & Vietnamese Mango and Duck Roll

The soft shell crab roll was crisp with a fleeting taste of sourish mango. I couldn't quite make out any taste of soft shell crab though, as it was overwhelmed by the leafy taste of the greens. The mango and duck roll fared slightly better. Drizzled with sweet sauce, it wasn't as leafy as the crab roll and I could still make out a faint fowl taste and texture. Not exactly the best way to start of the meal in my humble opinion.




Poet Drunken Chicken & Taro Strings

Honestly its the first time I'm having taro strings so its quite a refreshing change from the norm. Soaked in Szechuan chilli oil, the strings tasted a little like vermicelli, albeit a little firmer and thicker, making for a nice chewy and fiery sensation. The drunken chicken was well marinated in Chinese wine but came across as a little too salty.




Chinese Box Signature Beijing Duck

Apparently, this is a signature dish of Chinese Box but I honestly thought that though palatable, it was no big deal. The skin was a wee bit crisp and served with meat, all wrapped up in a thin egg crepe, with some cucumber slices thrown in for the works. I have definitely eaten much better ones before.



TeoChew TaiPan Superior Thick Shark's Fin Soup

The broth was thick and savoury without coming across as nausea inducing. The single fin was of quite a decent size but its texture reminded me somewhat of vermicelli, which was rather unnerving. I could make out a mild ginger taste in it as well. Decent but could be better.



Pan Fried Cod Fish Fillets in Superior Soy Sauce

Well fried till crisp but lacked the natural sweetness or smoothness of cod. Probably the redeeming factor would be the sweet sauce that came drizzled atop, without which, the fish would have tasted bland.



Signature Golden Roast Duck & Teochew Five Spice Meats Roll

Another signature duck dish, this time served with a roll of wu xiang. The duck's skin was rather limp and certainly didn't impress while the wu xiang had a nice crisp exterior belying an overly soft interior that was lacking in robustness of taste.



Stir-Fried Taiwan Pea-shoots

The pea shoots aka dou miao (豆苗) was quite well fried - not too soft yet retaining enough juices and mildly salty.



Signature Golden Tofu Bar with Sauteed Mushrooms

I think the word signature is used to death already. The word raises expectations a few notches and its cruel to be brought back down to reality. I like my tofu savoury with a hint of smokiness but Chinese Box's offering, though smooth, lacked just that. I liked the topping of mushrooms and dried scallops though.



Garlic Steamed Fresh Scallop w/ Tofu

A huge steamed scallop showered with lots of deep fried garlic (a personal favourite) and fresh chopped garlic, served on a bed of steamed tofu. The garlic provided a nice crunch and aroma but covered the sweetness, if any, of the scallop. The tofu was smooth but not exactly soft while the gravy had egg white in it. All in all, I thought that the idea was there, just that the execution and proportions could have been better.



Taro Paste"Orni" w/ Pumpkin & Gingko Nuts

I love this effort intensive traditional Teochew dessert and have been fortunate enough to try out quite a number of renditions in Singapore and overseas. My take on Chinese Box's variation? Smooth but not fragrant, probably due to the exclusion of lard in it. And the taste wasn't robust enough for my liking. On the upside, it wasn't too sweet, which was a good thing.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the management of Chinese Box for inviting me for this food tasting and to wish them well in their future endeavours.



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

Address: 1D Cluny Road

Contact: 6219 7877

Opening Hours: 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm, 6:00 pm - 11:00 pm

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

Sunday, June 21, 2009

BERGS Gourmet Burger



Had a craving for burgers and heard about this new burger stall, Bergs, which apparently is the brainchild of 2 Aussies who had embarked on a futile attempt to find the perfect burger. Frustrated, they decided to open an eatery that served up fresh burgers cooked/made on the spot.



Interior & Menu

Situated within the nostalgic Far East Square, Bergs offers al fresco seating along the side walks and a not so cool air conditioned interior that reminded me of a school tuck shop with its wooden tables and matching chairs and an open kitchen (where you can see your burgers being made) to boot.


Chips

The burgers do not come with any sides so we started off with an order of chips, which came served in a doggy bag. The chips looked machine cut but were thick and probably weren't of the frozen variant. Firm on the outside with a light handful of salt yet soft and moist on the inside.



Crikey (compare with the coke bottle cap for size)

There is an option of having your burger done in 2 sizes - small or Bergs. I naturally opted for the latter. 2 huge pieces of freshly grilled beef patties and 2 pieces of bacon, all with grill lines to show for it, rather elastic edam cheese, lettuce and evenly toasted sesame buns - Seriously, what's not to like? Well perhaps the overdoneness of the beef would be one. The patty didn't conceal any reddish tinges within and the exterior was a little too charred. But at least I could taste the mild uneveness of the meat. Did I mention that the burger was huge?



Alamack (Small Size)

This fish burger's name is a weird pun on the Malay word, alamak, which loosely translates to "oh my god". Funny names aside, the burger came with 2 chunks of fish which were lightly battered with crumbs and came across as tasty without being too fishy. Although this wasn't a Berg's size burger, it was still quite a handful.



Bill

Bergs is probably one of the more expensive fast food places I've ever tried, but portions are generous and service is great. Food quality could improve, especially for the beef patties but throw in an almost crowd free environment on weekday/weekend evenings and its a huge draw, especially for people who value peace and quiet, like yours truly. And to borrow Carl Junior's slogan about their burgers, "It's gonna get messy".



Final Verdict:
Ambience:6/10
Service:7/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:6.5/10
Overall:6.5/10

Address: #01-01 Far East Square

Contact: 6438 6506

Opening Hours: 10.00am to 10.00pm, Mon - Sat

Website: http://bergsburgers.com/index.html

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jing



Another weekend, another Sunday brunch. But its the first time I'm having Chinese ala carte buffet for brunch and expectations were relatively high as Jing @ One Fullerton is under the same management as Majestic Restaurant, which has won top accolades for its Chinese food.

























Ambience

Typical modern Chinese restaurant but what sets it apart is the huge glass windows that allow plenty of sunlight in as well as views of the partially constructed IR just across the river. The booth seats look comfortable for a party of 3 or 4 but unfortunately we were relegated to the center tables. There is the problem of weak air conditioning too.

Variety

You get about 20 odd different types of dim sum , a tiny self service buffet station with duck, fruits and minimal desserts and the standard 4-5 items each of seafood, meat, vegetables, rice, noodles and the likes. There are certain restrictions on certain items. Ie. you get to choose 1 serving of either Chilli Crab or Soon Hock and soups are limited to 2 servings per table. If you are keen on the more premium items like boston lobster or shark's fin soup, be prepared to top up at least $10++ to $18++ more per pax for 1 portion. Drinks are chargable and the only things that are free flow are the Chinese tea and sky juice.

Quality

The quality is merely average in my humble opinion. Nothing quite stands out but nothing really sucked terribly either. If I had to choose, the best dish would probably be the crispy duck from the carving station. All in all, the dishes were palatable but honestly, don't expect too much. Think Crystal Jade La Mian XLB standard.

Service

Average service from wait staff that didn't seem very keen on serving. When I called to make a reservation, the lady on the other end of the phone wasn't particularly friendly either. No big boo boos but could be a lot better.



Value for money

At $36++/pax ($42.40 nett), I honestly thought that it was a little over the top. Food quality was generally average, the spread not exactly the most extensive and service, forgettable. I fail to see how Jing could have made a name for itself with such standards.



Final Verdict:
Ambience:7/10
Service:6/10
Food:6.5/10
Value for money:6/10
Overall:6.375/10

Address: One Fullerton, #01-02/03

Contact: 6224 0088

Opening Hours:

Lunch - 11.45am to 3pm

Dinner - 6.30pm to 11pm

Website: http://www.jing.sg/

On a more uplifting side note, desserts at Canele right after lunch at Jing were definitely more enjoyable and I'm surprised at how good they turned out to be.



Le Royale



Black Forest 2009



Barcelona