Sunday, November 25, 2012

Quay Restaurant, Sydney


Our Sydney trip wouldn't have been complete without a meal at one of Australia's most critically acclaimed (and awarded) restaurant, Quay. Ranked 29th on the coveted San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant’s list and Australia's best restaurant for the third year running, Quay is helmed by the talented Chef Peter Gilmore, who has been featured in the Australia MasterChef competition .


The Place & Menu

Perched on the upper level of the Overseas Passenger Terminal @ The Rocks, Quay's list of accolades is matched only by the view that it has to offer - the Harbour Bridge on one side and the iconic Sydney Opera House on the other. There is no ala carte menu available and you only have a choice of the 4 course dinner (AUD 165) or the tasting menu (AUD 220).


Mocktails


Amuse Bouche

We started off with an amuse bouche of fresh water marron sashimi with pomelo and sliced almonds. The marron's texture was a little chewy but the taste was masked by the semi sweet pomelo. Overall a rather cold and refreshing starter with a nice crunchy texture from the almonds to boot. 


Sashimi of Corner Inlet Rock Flathead

The thin slices of fish were fresh and went reasonably well with the rawness of the raw sea cabbage. I wasn't too taken by it though as I didn't find it particularly outstanding in anyway. 


Congee of Northern Australian Mudcrab

This was quite funny, really, because we Asians are exposed to congee on a very frequent basis and there we were, having congee in an Australian, fine dining restaurant. The truth be told, it was good comfort food but I've definitely had better. The rice grains were broken and barely visible, topped with plentiful shreds of crab meat and slivers of ginger in a sweet and light broth. What I found different was the addition of fresh palm heart, which added a nice crunchy dimension to this dish.


Gently Poached Southern Rock Lobster

Succulent lobster meat, beautifully cooked squid and tapioca pearls poached in smoked eel broth to resemble caviar - A myriad of robust, unexpected savoury flavours singing in harmony. A most excellent dish.


Roasted Partridge Breast

Tender yet lean, the partridge was decidedly more gamy than any birds I've ever eaten (chicken, geese, duck and the likes). Served alongside was a wonderfully soft, steamed truffle brioche with nuances of buttery goodness. Excellent.


Smoked and Confit Pig Cheek

Another outstanding dish, the pork cheek was mind blowingly tender with strong hints of smokiness and a mild saltiness. The smokiness also rubbed off onto the scallops and mushrooms, of both which sported a tinge of smoky flavour as well. The Jerusalem artichoke leaves were interestingly crisp with a cheesy aftertaste. Now I can't decide if I like this dish or the poached lobster more.


Pasture Raised Milk Fed Veal

I wasn't too enamoured by the veal but I did like the sauce - smooth, milky with a savoury aftertaste.


Hapuka Poached in Creme Fraiche

This was a replacement for the veal as my fiance doesn't take beef. But I had too little of it to make any comments, save for the fact that she was pretty happy with it.


8 Textures of Chocolate

And to kick start the desserts, the sensational 8 textures of chocolate. Chocolate mousse, caramel, vanilla and chocolate ganache, chocolate and hazelnut dacquoise, cake base, milk chocolate praline discs, chocolate caramel cream, dark chocolate top disc; all 7 textures in one compact, circular structure. Topped with the 8th texture, a ladle of hot chocolate sauce, creating a rupture in the roof of the structure. Simply amazing. A must try for all chocolate fans! And just for the record, this dessert requires 3.5 hrs to make.


Jersey Cream, Salted Caramel, Prunes, Walnut, Ethereal Sheets

We were advised to crush the ethereal sheets thoroughly for maximum enjoyment. Besides the crackles from the sheets and the smooth ice cream, this dessert was good but nothing out of the ordinary. It seemed like a souped up version of ice cream with all the bells and whistles.


Jackfruit Snow Egg

And for the undisputed star of the night, the crème de la crème, the Jackfruit snow egg. Touted as one of the toughest challenges in Australia's MasterChef, this dessert requires alot of skill to perfect. A scoop of  Jackfruit ice cream forms the yolk and is encapsulated in a meringue egg with a maltose shell, sitting prettily on a bed of Jackfruit granita. Knocking the top of the "egg" with your spoon produces a satisfying "crack" sound and you are on your way to Jackfruit heaven! One thing that didn't quite work for me was the maltose shell, which stuck to my teeth ever so often. But that aside, the whole experience was absolutely divine and I would have had seconds if it was available on the ala carte menu. Truly a signature dish.

Petits Fours



Bill

A 3 hour dinner for 2 pax cost to the tune of AUD 464 (~ 600 SGD), which isn't very expensive in my humble opinion, especially with the (mostly) top notch quality of food and service (albeit a little too professional for my liking). Coupled with awesome views, it is easy to see why Quay is booked out months in advance for dinner. So if you are eying a dinner table during the weekend, be sure to book 6 months in advance (when the reservation window opens).


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 9/10
Service: 8/10
Food: 8.5/10 (9.5/10 for the snow egg)
Value for money: 8.5/10

Overall: 8.5/10

Address: Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks, Sydney 2000

Contact: 02 9251 5600

Opening Hours: 

Dinner
6pm - 10pm daily

Lunch
12pm - 230pm (Tues to Fri)

Website: http://www.quay.com.au/index.html

Just to share some pictures taken from the top of the Overseas Passenger Terminal (where Quay resides)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Cliff

Attended a wedding dinner reception for close friends and relatives at The Cliff one sweltering Sunday evening.


The Place & Menu

The Cliff is nestled within the abundant green foliage of The Sentosa Resort & Spa and is helmed by Chef Yew Eng Tong, who recently bagged a gold medal at the Bocuse d’Or Asia competition. The place is designed by famed Japanese Yasuhiro Koichi and evokes a sense of serenity and relaxation through its resort style decorations and layout. Coupled with sweeping views of the lush greenery and south china sea, it is definitely a great place for a romantic date. Or not. If you perspire easily, consider this. The entire place only has al fresco dining and there is a smart casual dress code to adhere to. With Singapore being so humid and the only air conditioned place being the toilet, you might want to rethink the venue.


Pan Seared Foie Gras

The foie gras was well seared but didn't come across as quivery but at least it wasn't too gamy. I personally thought that the green apple espuma and the lemon compote went well with the foie gras, providing a nice, mildly sweet tartness to the equation.


Roasted Parsnip Cream

I thought this dish was quite good with a nicely rich and creamy texture. The cashnew nut crumble provided an additional crunch whereas the honey jelly imbued it with a raw, unsweetened honey taste. Just watch out for the kick from the mustard. 


Barramundi

I only tried a mouthful of this so I shall reserve my comments.


Tajima Wagyu Beef

Honestly, this dish definitely didn't live up to its name and at $125, a terrible rip off. The marbling on the meat wasn't evident and it lacked the characteristic bovine goodness. What's worse, it was way too heavily salted. The accompanying foie gras cubes and truffled potato puree were decent but didn't help elevate this dish in my humble opinion.


The Cliff Lemon Tart

One of the restaurant's signature dishes, this eponymous dessert had me reeling in discomfort at its extreme tartness. But when taken with the sweet tonka bean ice cream, things got a little better and I must say that this was quite a decent dessert, although I wouldn't say it befits the "signature dish" connotation.

Based on a quick glance at the pricing in the ala carte menu, the 4 course dinner that I had worked out to be about $200++, which was quite a rip off in my humble opinion. Food quality was generally slightly above average save for the parsnip cream. I'll probably not return, especially with the high prices and quality of food.

Final Verdict:

Ambience: 8/10 (Very nice place but no air conditioning throughout)
Service: 7.5/10
Food: 6.5/10(7/10 for the parsnip cream)
Value for money: 4/10 (based on ala carte pricing)

Overall: 6.5/10

Address: The Sentosa Resort & Spa

Contact: 6371 1425

Opening Hours: 6.30pm – 12.00am (Last order at 10.00pm)

Website: http://www.thecliff.sg

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chye Seng Huat Hardware


Was in the vicinity so decided to drop by Chye Seng Huat Hardware (CSHH) for brunch, not so much for the coffee that this indie coffee joint is apparently well received for. The owners of the joint bought over one of the many hardware stores at Tyrwhitt Road and retained its name as well as exterior for a more quirky experience I guess.


The Place

The place wasn't difficult to find and parking was plentiful (park at Jalan Besar stadium). What was interesting is that the entrance to the cafe is via an old steel gate at the side. Being a Saturday, the place was understandably packed with a young and hip crowd of 20 somethings sipping delicately on their espressos and enjoying a sweet treat or two. I obviously didn't belong there. 


Espresso + Water

I am not much of a coffee drinker/fan hence I got this to try. My verdict? I still know nuts about coffee and I think I'll stick to drinking Chinese tea,


Chicken Patties
 
The chicken patties tasted very "Thai inspired" with kaffir lime leaf, coriander and chilli. It wasn't spicy but it tasted very similar to Thai fish cake, albeit of a different texture. The meat was loosely packed and came across as excessively oily. It was so bad that I felt nauseous after the second piece. At that point in time, it really didn't matter if the ingredients were organic or not (as stated in the menu's description). All I wanted to do was to regurgitate everything out. CSHH should probably look into serving bread alongside this dish.


Beef Patties

Now this fared slightly better than the chicken patties. However, they did come across as too dry but had bits of fat within for extra texture and flavouring. 4 pieces was my max before I started feeling woozy again. As with the chicken, bread or some other form of carbohydrate would be good.


French Toast

And for dessert, we had the french toasts, which were thick and a little cushy but sadly, lacking in the all essential egg taste. Coupled with a runny syrup, it wasn't that great a dessert. But hey, it's only $7.50.


Bill

Only cash is accepted at this joint and honestly, forking out $43 for the less than desirable patties, a french toast, a small glass of watermelon juice and a cup of coffee just doesn't quite cut it. Granted, I am not a coffee drinker but based on the food they serve, I wonder what the hype is all about.


Final Verdict:
Ambience: 7/10 (Something different but you have to find your own seat and it can get noisy)
Service: NA (not much to speak of as you order at the counter)
Food: 5/10 (6/10 for the french toast. No comments on the espresso)
Value for money: 5/10

Overall: 5.67/10

Address: 150 Tyrwhitt Rd

Contact: 6396 0609

Opening Hours:

Tue - Thu: 9:00 am - 7:00 pm

Fri - Sun: 9:00 am - 10:00 pm

Website: http://www.cshhcoffee.com

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Catalunya

Dropped by Catalunya one weekday evening for dinner with a couple of my colleagues. The restaurant's head chef, Alain Devahive Tolosa and manager, Pol Perello, have both spent many years at the famed El Bulli and the media has apparently been hyping up on this association, especially since El Bulli has since shut its doors to become a research think tank.


The Place & Menu

The address reads Fullerton Pavilion, which is a floating dome structure sandwiched between One Fullerton and Clifford Pier and plays host to a solitary eatery/bar - Catalunya. Pretty impressive design if I may say. The doorway leads up into the bar area where you are seated whilst your table is being prepped. Walking down a short flight of stairs brings you to the dining area proper, with its arced floor to ceiling windows and breathtaking ground level views of the surrounding Marina Bay area.


Tomato Tartar Confit

I didn't think that this dish was anything great. Lightly tart tomato confit served with almost tasteless foam and thin slices of crisp toast. And $18 for such a tiny portion? You have gotta be kidding me.


"Patatas Bravas" with "All I Oli"

I liked the simplicity of this dish - Plump potatoes in alioli (garlic and oil) sauce with a mild hint of spiciness. Tasty carbohydrate laden comfort food.


Tortilla Omelette "Deconstruccion"

This omelette deconstruction was rather interesting and really tasted like the real thing, sans the texture. Thick layer of egg white foam atop a concoction of caramalised onions and tortilla bits. I did find it a little too salty though.


Ham, Cheese and Truffle "Bikini"

To be honest, this was really something different. It looked like sandwiches but the texture was rather gelatin like (kueh like) and I could make out the truffle oil taste. Pretty nice in my humble opinion.


Traditional Suckling Pig "Segovian Style"

This was billed as one of the must tries. The pig was served whole and intact table side and the waiter proceeded to cut it up with a plate to showcase the tenderness of the meat. The first thing that hit me when I tried a piece was the indelible, overwhelming porky taste which caused me to almost regurgitate it out. But as with most things, I got used to it after a few more bites and it definitely helped that the skin was extremely crisp and the meat, tender. Do note that this dish is very oily and the accompanying sauce doesn't seem to do much for it so please share or nausea will kick in very fast. Just for the record, it states that this dish is for 2 pax but 4 of us couldn't finish it. And it wasn't due to the size of the pig but the amount of oil.


Lobster Rice

Apparently another must try dish, the lobster rice fared much better than the suckling pig though I did find it a wee bit too fishy for my liking (probably due to the al dente short grain rice being simmered in fish broth and what seemed like bits of scallop). I appreciated the fresh and crunchy, albeit small, serving of lobster though.


"Torrija" with Milk Ice Cream

And on to the desserts. The torrija (fried milk bread) was excellent - mildly sweet and seemingly coated with a layer of crisp caramel, juxtaposing the smoky but sugarless milk ice cream.


Chocolate in Different Textures with Passion Fruit

Besides the twist of the chocolate coloured mousse being made from passion fruit, this dessert didn't wow any of us. Do watch out for the extremely sour passionfruit droplets by the side!


Fresh Cheese Flan with "Berries" and Crumble

I wasn't too taken by the cheese flan, which had a panna cotta like texture - quivery and a little creamy with a cheesy undertone. I did like the crumble though, which tasted like "love letters", just a little more moist.


Bill

The 4 of us chalked up about $376 for a filling but unsatisfying meal.The dish that really killed us was the suckling pig and though service was great, the food wasn't. Coupled with a less than serene environment (music blasting from the bar area), it's definitely not the place for a quiet or romantic date. Would I be back? Probably not.


Final Verdict:
Ambience:7.5/10 (Great views but let down by the noise)
Service:7.5/10
Food:6.5/10 (7.5/10 for the Torrija)
Value for money:5.5/10

Overall:6.75/10

Address: 82 Collyer Quay

Contact: 6534 0886 (Reservations), 6534 0188 (general enquiries)

Opening Hours: 12 noon to 2am

Website: http://www.catalunya.sg/