Sunday, April 27, 2014

Statholdergaarden, Oslo

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We happened to be in Oslo the week before Christmas and made a reservation to dine at one of only five Michelin starred restaurants in Norway (it used to be only two in 2013 hence the choices were limited), Statholdergaarden.  Established in 1994 and helmed by Bocuse d'Or winning Chef Bent Stiansen, Statholdergaarden currently holds 1 michelin star and has been considered by many as one of the best restaurants in Norway.

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Situated in Oslo's historic quarter, Kvadraturen and housed in a protected villa dating back to 1640, Statholdergaarden's is located on the first floor whilst its sister restaurant, Statholderens Food & Wine Cellar (a casual establishment), takes the basement vaulted cellar. Statholdergaarden boasts a stately dining room with beautiful stucco ceilings and hanging chandeliers; much like a journey back in time. Noise levels can be a problem as the ceiling is rather low and we could hear what the tables around us were saying.

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The menu says it all. 4 courses for Kr. 1035, 5 courses for Kr. 1135 and 6 courses for Kr. 1235 with an option to have matching wines for a top up. I went with the 6 course while my wife went with 4.

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Complimentary Bread

I honestly don't remember much about the complimentary bread safe for the fact that it helped in quelling the growling unrest in my stomach that evening.

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Amuse Bouche

The amuse bouche got us off to a nice start with thin, crispy cone filled with delicious cream cheese and a touch of truffle.

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Amuse Bouche

Following up was a rather interesting amuse bouche trio of potato ball with cod fish filling, trumpet soup and crispy pastry with horseradish and shredded moose. The potato ball was quite tasty without coming across as too fishy but I did find it a tad too salty. Ditto the deliciously creamy trumpet (mushroom) soup.
Believe it or not, it's my first time eating moose and I was naturally excited. But the cured moose shreds were so underwhelming that I could only make out the horseradish. So much for my first try of moose.  

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Grilled Scallop and Cured Salmon Served with Dill, Crisp Rye & Mustard Emulsion

The word "sparse" came to my mind when I set my eyes on our first appetiser. First impressions aside, the scallop was grilled to perfection and full of natural sweetness to boot. The cured salmon had a nice bite to it and didn't come across as too salty whilst the rye gave the entire dish a nice crisp texture.

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Shellfish Soup Garnished with Roulade of Halibut, Fennel & Feves

Served amidst a rich and mildly creamy langoustine broth, the roulade of halibut was fresh but a tad too salty for my liking. I wouldn't mind seconds though.

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Fried Cod Served with Spinach, Pickled Red Onion and Jerusalem Artichoke Puree, Tarragon Sauce

Crackling crisp skin coupled with fresh, tender meat and topped with artichoke crisps. Lovely but a tad too salty. I don't know if it's just me or do Norwegians generally prefer more salt in their dishes?

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Pepper Glazed Breast of Duck Served with Brussels Sprouts, Baked Root Vegetables, Mushroom Croquet and Coast Berry

Pink in the center with a nicely crisp skin and tender, not too gamy meat, the duck breast went very well with the mildly sweet port wine sauce. The mushroom croquet was also a nice tough, bringing a nice earthy flavour to the dish.

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Palate Cleanser

An intermission of raspberry granita with something that skips my memory.

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Taleggio Cream Served with Apple Compote, Caramelized Nuts & Salad

This is honestly the first time I'm seeing dessert served with vegetables and I can't say that I'm a fan. The taleggio cream on its own had a pretty mild and easygoing flavour (nothing like aged taleggio cheese which is rather pungent) but when paired with apple compote and caramalised nuts, it gave rise to a semi creamy dish with sweet touches and a crunchy texture. Interesting but I am of the humble opinion that this would probably sit better under appetisers?

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Milk Chocolate Bonnet & Sour Cream Pannacotta Garnished with Clementine Curd & Sherbet

The chocolate bonnet was lightly bitter and rich whilst the clementine curd and sherbet provided a nice juxtapose with their mild sweetness and citrusy flavours. I personally liked the crushed soil below the sherbet, which provided a nice crunch texture to the dessert.

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Dinner at Statholdergaarden was a relatively inexpensive affair (by Norwegian standards), standing at 2270 NOK (~ SGD 475) for 2 pax (6 course and 4 course respectively) without any wine. Food was competent but honestly a little disappointing for a 1 michelin starred restaurant. Service was great and extremely polished though and the restaurant was full the evening we were there. So be sure to make reservations at least a few weeks in advance.

Final Verdict:
Ambience: 8.5/10
Service: 8/10
Food: 7/10
Value for money: 6.5/10 (by Norwegian standards)

Overall: 7.5/10

Address: Rådhusgate 11 , entrance kirkegaten, 0151 Oslo

Contact: 00 47 22 41 88 00

Opening Hours: Mon to Sat - 6pm till midnight. Last order at 1130pm.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Jin Shan Restaurant 金山楼

Was itching to try out somewhere new for dim sum instead of the usual favourites thus settled for Jin Shan Restaurant (金山楼) at Marina Bay Sands one late Saturday morning.

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The Place

Located within the confines of the hotel (not the shopping mall), Jin Shan sat on an elevated platform on the ground floor. Natural sunlight peered through the huge glass panels that lined the side, making for a comfortable and cheery atmosphere. Unfortunately this also meant that some tables were subjected to more sunlight than others. 

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Abalone Pork Dumpling

We started off with the abalone siew mai, which was a joke, seriously. The siew mai itself was decent without encapsulating too much fatty meat but the abalone had a very raw taste that spoilt the whole dish. Gross.

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Jin Shan Signature Rice Rolls

The signature cheong fun was actually a combination of scallop, BBQ pork and deep fried beancurd skin rice rolls. The fillings were decent but the rice rolls were too thick for my liking and lacked the silkiness of good cheong fun

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Steamed Asparagus with Prawns Dumpling

Prawns and crunchy asparagus deftly wrapped in translucent dumpling skin and topped with a smidgen of roe; Decent but nothing too surprising. 

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Fresh Shrimp Dumpling

Crunchy prawns and acceptably thin dumpling skin. No burst of flavour though.

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Steamed Custard Buns

Rich custard oozed out when we broke into the buns but sadly, the custard was just sweet without the saltiness and rough texture of egg yolk which would have made this dish great.

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Deep Fried Prawn with Mango

This dish was a little interesting although not exactly in a good way. The prawns and mango bits were wrapped in dumpling skin, deep fried till crisp and topped with sesame seeds. I could make out the taste of the prawns and sesame seeds but sadly, the mango was non existent.

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Fried Carrot Cake

A tad crisp on the outside without coming across as too mushy on the inside. Average tasting at best.

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BBQ Combination

I think a good yardstick of any dim sum place is its roasted/BBQ meats (烧腊) and as pretty as our BBQ combination (roasted pork & soya sauce chicken) looked, it didn't quite match up. For starters, even though the roasted pork's skin was crisp, it wasn't evenly roasted (as evident from the different hues of brown on the skin) and a tad overly salty. The soya sauce chicken fared slightly better with tender meat and a spot of sweetness.

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Lean Meat Century Egg Congee

The lean meat century egg congee was a tad too watery and bland for my liking. Ditto the scallop congee (forgot to take a picture), which was watery and extremely bland. Forgettable. 

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Bird's Nest Egg Tart

Flaky but sans the buttery goodness that I would normally associate with tarts. The custard was mildly sweet whilst the strands of birds nest offered a nice gelatin texture to the mix. Decent but no great shakes.

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BBQ Pork Puff

One of my favourite dim sum dishes, Jin Shan's rendition of the BBQ pork puff was average at best and nowhere near my personal favourite at Yan Ting. The pastry was too thick and as with the egg tarts, lacked the buttery, oven baked goodness that I personally like. And I could only make out the taste of the pork floss atop as the char siew filling was rather bland.

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With a 10% discount, the 4 of us chalked up a bill of about $180, which is quite a bit higher than what I usually pay at Wah Lok. Food quality was average at best and service was definitely below that of a restaurant in a 5 star hotel. Read. Grouchy at times and unhelpful to say the least. The only thing going for the restaurant is its bright, cheery ambience. Will I go back? Definitely not!

Final Verdict:
Ambience: 7/10
Service: 4/10
Food: 5/10
Value for money: 4/10
Overall: 5/10

Address: 1 Bayfront Ave Marina Bay Sands Hotel Lobby #01-05 Tower 2

Contact: 6688 7733

Opening Hours: Mon - Sun: 7:00 am - 4:00 am


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Clifford Part II - Restaurant Week Dinner

Restaurant week was upon us once again and the venue of choice this time round was Clifford, which I had a pretty good experience at for brunch quite a while back

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Complimentary Bread

Baguettes and multigrain buns served with a side of smooth butter and deliciously sinful duck rillette (it was a tad dry though) started the meal rolling. My personal favourite? The baguette; crusty, light and served warm. 

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French Onion Soup

Sweet without coming across as overly heavy but a little lacking in cheese in my humble opinion. Still a decent French onion soup nonetheless. 

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Foie Gras Pan Seared with Cresses Salad Fresh Fig and Figs Jam on Brioche

I thought the foie gras was pretty good but could do with a little more searing to achieve a lightly crisp surface. The buttery goodness from the brioche complimented the sweetness of the foie gras but this is seriously a heart stopping combination. Portions are a little small as well for a $12++ top up charge.

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Whole Lobster Angel Hair With Fresh Tomato, Sweet Basil and Lobster Butter Sauce

This required a top up of $25++ and even though the lobster chunks were aplenty and crunchy, the angel hair pasta was a little too soggy, probably the end result of sitting too long in the tomato sauce. One other issue I had was that the tomato sauce, whilst lightly tart and zesty, became a little boring after a while and the whole dish lacked variation in flavours. It was just tomato, tomato, tomato. I couldn't even make out the sweetness of the lobster.

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Clifford Signature Duck Confit

I had this during my previous visit and remembered it to be very good. And it didn't disappoint. Crisp on the outside but moist and tender on the inside. No truffle mash this time round though.

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Slice Of Chocolate

This was essentially a chocolate hazelnut tart served with passion fruit sorbet and chocolate
crumble. The chocolate was rich with a nice hazelnut taste but didn't across as too heavy. I personally liked the crunchy wafer layer wedged in between. And the passionfruit sorbet wasn't as sour as I had expected it to be. Pretty nice dessert!

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After the top ups, the bill for 2 came to about $173, which sorta straddled the line on the value for money criteria. Food at Clifford was a case of hits and misses but the entire experience was generally a positive one. Coupled with great ambience and good service, I might return but probably only for brunch or restaurant week where it won't cost me an arm or a leg to dine there.

Final Verdict:
Ambience: 8.5/10
Service: 7/10
Food: 7/10
Value for money: 6/10

Overall: 7.125/10

Address: The Fullerton Bay Hotel

Contact: 6597 5288

Opening Hours: Daily: 6.30am–11am, 12pm–2.30pm, 3pm–5.30pm, 6.30pm–11pm


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Ember Part VIII - The Final Hurrah?

When we first heard that Chef Sebastian Ng was leaving Ember at the end of April to helm a fast-casual dining concept restaurant under the Unlisted Collection group (which Ember is a part of as well), we rushed to make reservations for lunch on a weekday afternoon.

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Complimentary Bread

The ever so delicious complimentary bread - warm and crusty with nuances of cheese. 2 servings is definitely not enough!

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Pan Roasted Scallop with Parma Ham, Citrus and Tarragon Vinaigrette

The scallops were quite disappointing this time round. Coming across as soft, wrapped around with a piece of limp Parma ham and soaked in what seemed to be a small pool of oil and water. A little discomforting to say the least. At least the side salad was decent.

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Pan Seared Chilean Seabass with Mushroom & Smoked Bacon Ragout, Truffle Yuzu Butter Sauce

My default choice of main at Ember, the pan seared chilean seabass. Silky with a lightly crisp golden top, sitting on a wonderfully creamy and flavourful mixture of smoked bacon ragout, mushroom and truffle yuzu butter sauce. I practically licked the plate clean.

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Crispy Caramelized Pear Tart with Homemade Baileys Ice Cream

 Flaky pastry filled with thin slices of pear and topped with crumble, served alongside a scoop of smooth baileys ice cream that didn't come across as too overwhelming. Great combination although I'm sure vanilla ice cream would have done the trick as well.

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Prices have crept up since my last visit. Set lunch was still at $42++ but there were a lot of top up options available (ie. the chilean sea bass was an additional $3++). What else can I say? Go before it's too late!

Final Verdict:
Food:7.5/10 (9.10 for the Chilean Seabass)
Value for money:7/10

Address: Hotel 1929, 50 Keong Saik Road

Contact: 63471928

Opening Hours:


Lunch: 11.30am - 2.00pm
Dinner: 6.30pm - 10.00pm


Dinner: 6.30pm - 10.00pm (Closed on Sundays)


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Lung King Heen 龍景軒 Part II, Hong Kong

It was a tough choice. Chinese familiarity at the venerable Lung King Heen or French flair at Caprice - both excellent restaurants in their own right (Lung King Heen with 3 Michelin stars and Caprice with 2; down from 3 when Chef Vincent Thierry left). And Chinese food prevailed.

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And so there we were, all 6 of us, nestled comfortably around a table smack in the middle of the dining area (there were no window seats available even though I had inquired more than a month in advance), reeling off our orders enthusiastically.

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Taro Pudding

Pan fried till crisp on the outside and smooth on the inside with a strong yam taste and a slightly spicy finish. Not great in my humble opinion but definitely decent.

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Steamed Lobster & Scallop Dumpling

A huge chunk of lobster meat topped with a slice of scallop and huge prawn, all wrapped up in a greenish, mildly chewy translucent skin. What's not to like?

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Baked Whole Abalone Puff

With 2 small pieces of abalone and minced chicken served up in a buttery puff with that lovely oven baked aftertaste, this was deliciously decadent!

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Steamed Rice Rolls with Lobster

Silky smooth, semi translucent rice rolls filled with lobster and drizzled with mildly salty soya sauce; Pretty decent save for the fact that I could only make out the texture of the lobster, not so much the taste or sweetness. But still a notch better than alot of the cheong funs (肠粉) that I have eaten at many restaurants.

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Stir Fried Pea Sprouts with Hairy Crab

This marked the second time I was having vegetables with hairy crab gravy, with the first occasion being at Ding Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) Shanghai just over a year back. And it was decent, with the hairy grab gravy rich with shreds of hairy crab without coming across as overwhelming. Personally would have preferred the pea sprouts with superior broth (上汤) though.

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Lung King Heen Roast Chicken

LKH's signature roast chicken and rightly so. Succulent and tender meat coupled with unbelievably crisp and thin skin. Nothing short of excellent.

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Baked BBQ Pork Buns with Pine Nuts

Probably the best 叉燒菠蘿包 I've eaten so far and even better than the much raved about rendition from Tim Ho Wan (All 6 of us ascertained this by visiting Tim Ho Wan less than an hour before our lunch reservation at LKH). Sweet crusty top with semi sweet, gooey BBQ pork chunks and pine nuts. So good that we were contemplating ordering another round but decided against the idea due to our bursting bellies.

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Lung King Heen Lobster Fried Rice

Another signature dish of LKH, the absolutely delicious lobster fried rice. Brimming with pieces of lobster, the glistening rice was evenly coated with egg and fried to perfection, carrying a noticeable wok hei. Eating fried rice will never be the same again.

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Crispy Scallop with Fresh Pear

This was quite interesting really. The sweetness of the pear formed an uneasy alliance with the slight fishiness of the scallop and prawn whilst the crust was coated with milk powder and dipped in lemon sauce. Can't say that the combination worked out very well actually although it was still very palatable. Guess I'll probably skip such "adventurous" dishes on my next visit.

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Complimentary Dessert

I honestly don't quite remember much about the complimentary desserts except that they provided a nice sweet ending to our extremely filling meal.

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While there were a couple of pedestrian dishes like the taro pudding and crispy scallop with pear, the majority were very good. And that came at a price of course; HKD 2877 or about SGD 475 for 6 pax. Service was noticeably better this time round and I'm already looking forward to my return trip in the next few days!

Food:8/10 (9/10 for the BBQ pork buns)
Value for money:7/10


Address: 4th Floor, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong

Contact: (852) 3196-8880

Opening Hours:

Sundays and public holidays
11:30 am – 3:00 pm

Monday to Saturday
12:00 noon – 2:30 pm

Daily 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm