Sunday, April 27, 2014

Statholdergaarden, Oslo

 photo IMG_6289_zpseff4d09b.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6293_zps73c40480.jpg

Interior

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.

 photo 20131220_185344_zpsa967be22.jpg

Menu

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.

 photo IMG_6299_zps470c296f.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6294_zps16025f15.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6296_zps94ff262f.jpg

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.  

 photo IMG_6302_zps722c022a.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6305_zps1bc258b8.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6308_zps23e106f9.jpg

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?

 photo 20131220_204810_LLS_zps1d173bcb.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6312_zps25d2cda2.jpg

Palate Cleanser

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

 photo IMG_6316_zps59ce039f.jpg

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?

 photo 20131220_213933_LLS_zpsc2c8f857.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6326_zpsaeae27d4.jpg

Bill

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.

Website: http://www.statholdergaarden.no/

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.

 photo IMG_6202_zps1e533ae9.jpg

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. 

 photo IMG_6223_zps8dc1da45.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6224_zps5f0e8310.jpg

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

 photo IMG_6216_zpsc3ff78be.jpg

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. 

 photo IMG_6218_zpscfd73cdf.jpg

Fresh Shrimp Dumpling

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

 photo IMG_6219_zpsc460c84d.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6220_zps02c57fe5.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6211_zpsac5d037d.jpg

Fried Carrot Cake

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

 photo IMG_6210_zpsd9cde197.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6208_zps0c1db5f5.jpg

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. 

 photo IMG_6205_zps67bbc456.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6203_zpsf2e3034a.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6226_zps4636b95f.jpg

Bill

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

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

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

 photo IMG_6830_zpsa43b8fda.jpg

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. 

 photo IMG_6833_zps80582ae7.jpg

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. 

 photo IMG_6836_zpsfd12c72c.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6840_zpsf150c548.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6844_zpsbee9cc08.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6849_zpsff2e1d05.jpg

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!

 photo IMG_6854_zpsf575b685.jpg

Bill

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

Website: http://www.fullertonbayhotel.com/dining-en.html

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.

 photo IMG_6855_zpse6f58837.jpg
 photo IMG_6866_zpsc772b01c.jpg

Complimentary Bread

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

 photo IMG_6870_zps24f52184.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6872_zpsd666ac57.jpg
 photo IMG_6876_zpsc03dd5fb.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6879_zps543ec27a.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6886_zps52a2be40.jpg

Bill

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:
Ambience:7/10
Service:7.5/10
Food:7.5/10 (9.10 for the Chilean Seabass)
Value for money:7/10
Overall:7.25/10

Address: Hotel 1929, 50 Keong Saik Road

Contact: 63471928

Opening Hours:

Mon-Fri:

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

Sat:

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

Website: http://www.hotel1929.com/

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.

 photo IMG_6053_zpsdab205b1.jpg

Interior

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.

 photo IMG_6066_zpsfce8ba24.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6063_zpsa77395ad.jpg

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?

 photo IMG_6067_zps024f9fa7.jpg

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!

 photo IMG_6056_zps83155f77.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6073_zps1e5eb892.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6076_zpsc4682da1.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6058_zps5ab674ec.jpg
 photo 20131110_120007_zpsa62af984.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6081_zps7630d958.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6072_zpse4a1932c.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6084_zps65c1934e.jpg

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.

 photo IMG_6086_zpsdaac1906.jpg

Bill

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!


Ambience:7.5/10
Service:7.5/10
Food:8/10 (9/10 for the BBQ pork buns)
Value for money:7/10

Overall:7.5/10

Address: 4th Floor, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong

Contact: (852) 3196-8880

Opening Hours:

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

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

Dinner
Daily 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm

Website: http://www.fourseasons.com/hongkong/dining/lung_king_heen